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CPD and the professional portfolio

Marilyn Eveleigh
Lead Nurse and Head of Clinical Performance
Brighton PCT

Every registered nurse should have an up-to-date professional portfolio - the documented evidence that you personally hold to identify relevant learning activities undertaken and how they have informed your professional practice

Keeping a professional portfolio is a requirement of post-registration education and practice (PREP), the standards established by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to ensure nurses maintain a high standard of practice and care. PREP is a mechanism that helps nurses to keep up-to-date with new developments in practice, encourages reflection and is the framework for continuing professional development (CPD). A professional portfolio is the written evidence of this.

The PREP (CPD) standard requires nurses to demonstrate a commitment to undertake CPD by:

  • Undertaking at least 35 hours of learning activity relevant to the area of practice during the three years before renewal of registration.
  • Maintaining a personal professional profile of learning activities (ie, a portfolio).
  • Complying with any request from the NMC to audit their portfolio.
  • Creating a professional portfolio.

There is no NMC-approved format for a professional portfolio but nurses should consider the suggestions below to capture the extent of their learning, reflection and implementation in a written record. The NMC booklet, The Prep Handbook, gives guidance for recording learning and all nurses should be familiar with this document.

Factual information
These details should reflect the information presented in a CV and is a profile of you.
Biographical details. This includes your date of birth, address and other personal details
Academic qualifications. Dates, awarding body or organisation, grades/level of achievement, should be listed here, eg, BSc(Hons) Sociology
Professional qualifications. This should include qualifications that are on the NMC register, eg, Registered Nurse.
Additional qualifications. Record those that do not fall into the above categories, eg, family planning certificate.
Name of workplace and organisations. Record the name of the organisations and roles you have held in your professional life.
Brief description of your current work or role. Record if you are not working, eg, maternity leave; retired or long-term ill health; paid or unpaid caring.
Professional positions held and achievements. List any key roles you have undertaken, eg, acting team leader, and what you have gained as a result of these opportunities.
List your strengths and what elements you need to improve.
Outside activities. Personal interests can serve as informal learning opportunities. List any learning outcomes you have gained as a result of these interests, eg, guide leader, committee member.

Learning episodes
You should document each learning activity you have undertaken. Over many years a professional portfolio will become a complete record of your professional life and a record of recent learning episodes that will serve as evidence for your three-year NMC registration.
Learning episodes could have been undertaken in any of the following formats:
Formal learning. This includes one-day workshops, short training sessions, formal courses leading to a qualification or certification.
Conferences, lectures, in-house events or seminars.
E-learning, television or other media.
Observational visits to places, people or agencies which are formal or informal. 
Reading articles.
Significant events. Do note the key features of the event and your role in it.
Appraisal of self and others you may undertake.
Clinical supervision sessions with peers.
Informal learning arising from incidents and/or one-to-one discussions.
Research and project work. List the project and dates started and completed. Why you undertook it and who commissioned you. What your role was, methodology used, and the outcomes/results.
Lectures or papers you presented. Indicate the type and size of audience and content.
Unpublished work. Brief synopsis, why undertaken and what sharing of knowledge.

For each of the episodes, a separate sheet should be used to record the following:
Date. State the date or period when this learning activity took place.
Briefly describe the learning activity. For example, I discussed with my team the importance of carer involvement, I read an article in a professional journal on asthma, I attended a course on practice-based commissioning.
How many hours did this take? Record how many hours the learning activity took.
Describe the learning episode. Provide a fuller explanation of the learning activity, including why you decided to do the learning or how the opportunity came about; where, when and how you did the learning, what sort of learning it was and what you expected to gain from it. Include in your portfolio any flyer or programme with the intended learning outcomes.
Outcome of the learning activity. Immediately after any learning episode you should record how the learning has impacted on your practice. The NMC suggest this is facilitated by completing the sentence, 'The ways in which this learning has influenced my work are …'. 
Note who with, and what you will need to discuss with others to implement your new learning, eg, new infection control measures may need to be discussed with your line manager. 
Note any future learning you have identified for yourself.
After three months it is suggested you should revisit your intended and identified changes to your practice. Indicate if you have implemented those changes or what/who blocked your intentions.
This will be a personal reflection of the way in which the learning has informed and influenced your work. 

Learning and professional development
Life is a continuum of learning. Every learning incident or event is consciously or sub-consciously internalised and reflected upon, and will influence how we live our lives as individuals. As professionals, such learning may also affect professional outlook and practice. Be mindful of the following when creating and maintaining a portfolio:
The learning activity undertaken must be relevant to your practice, or plan to be in the near future.
There is no such thing as approved PREP (CPD) learning activity; there are many ways of learning, both in a formal and informal setting, planned or unplanned events and as a consequence of patient, carer or colleague influence.
Learning events do not necessarily cost money.
Not every learning occasion comes with points or certificates of attendance.
Any learning must help you to provide the highest possible standards of practice and care.
Patient names and identity must not be used in a portfolio.
You must complete your PREP (CPD) requirements for the three years leading up to each renewal of your registration
Employers are likely to require you to bring your portfolio to interview. You are entitled to remove any elements you so wish.
The NMC may request the portfolio of any registrant at any time. Keep yours updated at regular intervals.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The Prep Handbook. London: NMC; 2010.

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