What is Continuous Professional Development (CPD)?.

Written by Tim Newham

3 July 2023

performance management

what is continuous professional development

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Continuous professional development should be encouraged and supported within your workforce.

When used correctly, CPD can be a really worthwhile experience.

But when you’re dealing with time-strapped employees, how can you support them to reduce the time burden?

In this blog, we’ll look at:

  • What continuous professional development is
  • What activities count towards CPD
  • The CPD cycle and how it works
  • How to simplify the CPD process

Let’s get started.

πŸš€ Pro Tip

See how Oxford University Hospitals used our tool, SkillFund, to provide a better continuous professional development experience to their learners and to the teams managing budgets, applications etc.

What is continuous professional development?

Not to be confused with training, which is more specific and linear learning designed to increase specific skills, CPD is a record of what you experience, learn and then apply.

It’s how you can continue your learning throughout your career, to ensure you’re an expert in your field and have the right skills.

Generally, CPD is used to mean a portfolio which documents your professional development. In some roles, CPD is a requirement, as it shows ongoing investment in professional development.

What is it used for?

Some CPD hours are logged as a requirement, such as nurses and midwives going through revalidation.

Otherwise, continuous professional development is used in a number of ways to support learners.

It can:

  • help you prepare or advance to a future role
  • develop leadership skills
  • include more general skills e.g., around business management

What activities count towards CPD?

Any activity where you learn can be used in your CPD portfolio. This sounds vague, but it includes a huge range of activities.

πŸ’‘ Note

It is worth ensuring that your chosen activities are relevant and developing skills that will support your line of work.

CPD activities usually fall under the following categories:

  • work-based learning
  • professional activity
  • formal education
  • self-direct learning

Let’s look at what activities you could complete as part of each type.

Work-based learning

Reflection is a big part of the CPD process, particularly for those undergoing revalidation.

Work-based activities can range from reflection to practical including:

  • case studies
  • coaching or mentoring
  • peer review
  • work shadowing
  • job rotation
  • supervising staff or students

Professional activity

Professional activities usually mean being involved in a professional body or attending a sector event.

As such, CPD activities include:

  • lecturing
  • involvement in a professional body
  • presenting at a conference
  • organising a specialist group

Formal education

Formal education is straightforward, but probably the most difficult to obtain alongside a full-time job.

CPD activities include:

  • accredited courses
  • further education
  • research projects
  • writing papers
  • going to seminars

Self-directed learning

Lastly is self-directed learning where the learner takes it upon themselves to improve their knowledge. This is the easiest to do and track, but sometimes users don’t want to log where they’re gaining knowledge from.

Even engaging in an online conversation on Twitter can count towards your CPD hours.

Other CPD activities include:

  • reading journals
  • reviewing books or articles
  • keeping a progress file
  • research via other mediums e.g. TV or the internet

The CPD cycle

The CPD process helps you manage ongoing development. The point of the CPD cycle is to help you record, review, and reflect on what you’re learning.

Training is a tick box to document completed learning, CPD is more about ongoing learning that gives more practical experience.

The CPD cycle helps you break down development into four distinct sections:

  • planning
  • learning
  • documenting
  • reflecting

As such, you could think of the CPD cycle as a tool to measure your progression.

Let’s look at each section in a little more detail:


Meaningful learning is the most impactful. So, before you begin embarking on continuous professional development, you first need to address what your learner is going to learn and why.

Planning your learning means you can also set goals. How is this learning and experience going to impact your learner in their day-to-day role?

This is a vital consideration before jumping into CPD.


The great thing about your CPD portfolio is that lots of things can count as learning meaning you are able to log it.

From on-the-job training and mentoring to internet research, it’s important to engage in the type of learning that resonates most.

If you have set CPD hours to hit, then you’ll be able to plan out how to split your time. For example, you might enrol in a course than takes 10 hours meaning you have 10 left to fill with other meaningful tasks.


Tracking and reflecting on your learning is a vital skill and is especially important to do correctly if you are audited.


CPD is mostly mandatory for those working in a role where they need to register to a regulatory board e.g., nurses

The content you share will be used as evidence to prove you’ve adhered to the mandatory learning standards you’re regulated by.

The rules around documentation will vary place to place. For example, some require a certain amount of CPD hours logged in a particular activity.

But what’s universally true is for evidence to be shared after the completion of each learning activity.


This is the final required part of the CPD cycle that must be logged in your CPD portfolio.

The key to good reflection is to address how the learning activity has supported knowledge growth or impacted a competency gap. Then consider how this learning will affect your colleagues and service users.

✏️ Note

This is particularly important for those working in healthcare as CPD is all about creating better patient care, so ask how it will affect your patients directly.

How to simplify the CPD process

CPD training and the admin around it can be fully brought into your LMS.

You can pull in course information for users to browse, manage your budgets and let learners apply for training.

It includes:

Provider catalogue

This catalogue, which is updatable by you, or your suppliers, allows your staff to look at available courses that might be relevant to their learning needs.

There are powerful search and filter features meaning they can whittle down available courses to those that are most relevant for them.

Budget allocation

Keeping track of training budgets isn’t easy. But our budget allocation and tracking modules allows you to set budgets for divisional and departmental units and then report on planned and actual spend.

It leaves you with more accurate reports and a better grasp of where your training budget is going.

Training application form

You can create a CPD application form right in your hub with flexible approval routes.