A whirlwind of opportunities for professional development

Dan Sullivan graduated from AECC University College in June 2020 and has now completed his first CPD submission to the General Chiropractic Council as well as the full Postregistration Training (PRT) Programme with the Royal College of Chiropractors. Following from his participation in BCA Conference 2020 and, in line with the additional CPD requirements introduced by the GCC in September this year, we caught up with Dan to talk about his first CPD experience, the PRT programme and how to make the most out of these opportunities.

You graduated from AECC University College last year and spoke at our 2020 conference about finding and starting a job during the pandemic. How was the rest of your first year in practice? Any surprising challenges or high points that you weren’t expecting?

It was a whirlwind year last year with so many highs and lows. Graduating during COVID-19 and starting work was a bit of a shock; learning how to use PPE and manage infection control brought its own challenges alongside trying to work without the support I had at university.

I think the high point of the year for me was starting to gain more confidence and build relationships with my patients. Around this time last year, I had my first day where I didn’t feel out of my comfort zone, I started to get an understanding of most things that would come through the door and how to manage or refer on these issues. One challenge I found was referring patients out of my scope of practice. Due to COVID-19 our clinic’s usual pathways weren’t functioning as they had before, so we had to reach out at times to contacts locally. It was a great way to build relationships in the community though!

This year was your first CPD submission to the GCC. How did you find the process of completing it?

I found the submission fairly straightforward. Fortunately, thanks to being registered on the PRT programme, I knew that most, if not all, of the CPD hours I would need in my first year would have been completed. I tracked any webinars or courses in a spreadsheet with the dates and hours so I could just transfer this to the GCC portal. To all new graduates, I would recommend making a tracker to save you fumbling through months old emails for dates and hours of CPD sessions. Leave plenty of time too, don’t wait until the submission date! The portal to submit opens quite a bit before the due date.

What would your advice be to new graduates completing their first CPD submission? Any hints and tips?

When you first start working, it’s important to get an idea what gaps you might have in your knowledge or experience. I had little experience with knee-related conditions during my time at university, so this was an area I singled out for CPD. Finding areas you need to improve in makes the CPD worthwhile!

Secondly, try to plan out when you can make the time to do webinars or in-person seminars. The 30 hours CPD requirement can be done quite simply over the course of the year by doing 3 hours a month. Block out time if need be in your diary. There is nothing worse than getting to summer and realising you’ve got to take off the best part of 4 working days to catch up. The BCA Conference is a great way to get a significant number of hours and it is learning with others!

In September this year, the GCC announced some additional CPD requirements for existing and new registrants. How do you find these new requirements and how to do you plan to prepare yourself to meet these?

In my opinion, the new requirement to think about our communication skills and how they can be improved is an area much needed for chiropractors. One of our biggest assets is that we can actually listen to our patients, we can take a thorough history and consider everything that’s going on with them. Unfortunately, with the NHS going through the current COVID-19 crisis, the GPs aren’t able to give everyone the time or acknowledgement that they may need. It’s all about effectively communicating with our patients about what has brought them in and using all our skills to elicit a complete thorough history that can lead an examination to eventually formulate into an accurate diagnosis.

I personally plan on further developing my communication skills by going through some of the RCC’s webinars on communication and also motivational interviewing. More about these you can find in the Upcoming Events section at the end of the magazine.

You were also registered for the PRT programme with the RCC. Have you completed it and how did you find the process?

I have now completed the PRT scheme. I found it to be very beneficial, it helped me grow my confidence in the first year of practice and gave me the support and mentorship I may otherwise not have had. It was great to have the opportunity to network and talk to others who were going through the same thing having recently graduated. One of the biggest assets of the PRT programme was the meetings on patient communication which, as said earlier, covers the new GCC CPD requirement.

One area I didn’t expect to be useful was the audit. At first, I felt like it would just be a checkbox exercise to finish the programme but upon doing it I realised where some of my failings were within the clinical setting. This enabled me to tighten up certain areas and for me this was considering psychological aspects of a patient’s life and how this may influence/alter their present condition.

Would you recommend the PRT programme to new graduates and why?

I couldn’t recommend it more! Start it as soon as you can after graduating. It covers all your CPD for the first year in practice and you get the mentorship that will help develop your abilities to new levels. One of the other areas that I found particularly useful was the business management section on the PRT. An external speaker talked to us about running a practice and financial management. This was an area that wasn’t well covered at university but is so important.

Any hits and tips on completing the PRT programme successfully?

Get started early. In those first few months after graduating your diary won’t be as full as it will later in the year. This is a perfect time to get some of the course material completed and further develop your knowledge. Try to get a couple of the big meetings out the way before Christmas in the first year! Also, similar to the CPD requirements, don’t leave it to the last minute.

Another piece of advice is to use the RCC clinical guidelines checklists for the audit that I mentioned earlier. They are easy to find on the website and it makes the audit so much quicker as you can quickly assess the data on how you have been doing and make any necessary changes.

We would like to thank Dan for his brilliant advice and to wish him, and all new graduates the very best of luck in their careers. The BCA is proud to support all students and new graduates to ensure they get off to a good start in the profession for a fulfilling and rewarding career.