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A professional development (PD) plan is a confidential document nurses create that guides and records the activities they undertake to meet the BCCNP Standards of Practice for their nursing designation, as well as their employer’s expectations. Nurses must develop one each year, as part of meeting their QA requirements.

Each PD plan is different, reflecting the creativity and uniqueness of each nurse’s learning journey and is evidence of their commitment to continuing competence in their nursing practice. A PD plan comes in different forms – electronic, handwritten, or a combination. It can be organized by date, skill, theme, or event, and employ a variety of resources to reflect the various ways the nurse integrates knowledge into their practice.

Recordkeeping

Some nurses prefer to use their computer to store their information, scan documents, and ‘blog’ their ongoing activities. Others prefer to use a binder to collect evidence, using plastic sheet protectors as envelopes to display certificates, letters, and other items to support their learning evidence. BCCNM has also created a basic template for nurses to use.

Creating a professional development plan is one way nurses indicate to the public that they are maintaining their competence to practise and take their professional development obligation seriously. This commitment is an important part of being a self-regulating professional.

Nurses are expected to keep supporting records to document their compliance with BCCNM's annual quality assurance program requirements for at least three years after the end of each calendar year, in accordance with section 155 of BCCNM's bylaws.

These records may be subject to audit by BCCNM under section 161 of the BCCNM bylaws, and the Quality Assurance Committee may require a registrant to submit information to verify their compliance with requirements of BCCNM's quality assurance program.

Employer requirements

Nurses are welcome to use and include the PD activities they complete to meet employer requirements in their BCCNM PD plan. These PD activities should be applied to the learning needs the nurse has identified through their self-assessment and peer feedback they receive.

Any and all activities nurses undertake to improve their practice—be it self-directed or employer mandated—“count” as professional development.

Getting started

The foundation of a professional development plan is self-assessment and peer feedback: this is how nurses will identify the areas they want to focus on.

Creating a professional development plan

Nurses should reflect on their self-assessment and peer feedback, and ask themselves:
  • What do I need to learn?
  • What do I want to learn?
  • What goals do I have for my professional development?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What are areas that require improvement?
  • How does my practice reflect the BCCNM Nursing Standards of Practice for my professional designation (RN, RPN, LPN, and NP)?

Then using SMART goals, plan how they will achieve their learning needs and goals and how they will measure their success.

Setting goals is an important part of professional development. The SMART system is used to help guide goal setting. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Therefore, a SMART goal incorporates all of these criteria to help focus a nurse's PD activities and increase the chances of achieving that goal.

What should PD plans include?

SMART Goals

  • Specific — What will you do?
  • Measurable — How will you know you've succeeded?
  • Attainable—Can you achieve this?
  • Realistic — Is this appropriate for your practice or career stage?
  • Time bound — When will you achieve this by?
  • The list below contains suggestions for inclusions but is by no means exhaustive. Nurses are reminded that personal or confidential information about clients or colleagues must have identifying information removed/deleted to maintain their privacy.

    • certificates, diplomas, or degrees
    • in‐services, workshops, or conferences attended
    • transcripts from courses taken, re-certifications, etc.
    • information about future events you want to attend
    • letters from clients and families
    • letters of reference or commendation
    • performance evaluations
    • mentor communication/peer feedback
    • annual self‐assessment
    • professional development plan
    • membership information
    • minutes from meetings that reflect learning opportunities
    • electronic resources
    • notes about books or articles read
    • participation in relevant focus or research groups
    • samples of documents that you developed (policies, course outlines, service plan, etc.)
    • volunteer work

    Evaluation

    Evaluation is a key component of the QA program that runs throughout the year. It weaves throughout the self-assessment, peer feedback and professional development stages as the nurse continually reflects and evaluates where they are at in their QA cycle, and where they are heading.

    When evaluating the impact of professional development on their practice, nurses should consider:
    • Did I meet my learning goals?
    • How did I meet my learning goals?
    • Was the outcome valuable to me? Why or why not?
    • Who (aside from me) benefited from my learning plan – clients, colleagues?
    • How have I shared or how will I share this learning experience with colleagues?
    • How have I been able to maintain and/or enhance my nursing practice?

    Nurses may find it helpful to document and keep the answers to these questions as part of their QA records. Sometimes nurses are unable to meet their PD goals—this is not necessarily a bad thing. Priorities change, as can workplaces, and personal circumstances.

    Nurses who don't achieve a PD goal can ask themselves:
    • Were my learning goals SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound/timely)?
    • Are there alternative ways that I could meet my learning goals?
    • Do I need to re-assess my learning needs and revise my goals?
    • How will I revise my professional development plan in the coming year?

    The continuous cycle of QA—assessment, feedback, PD planning and evaluation—ensures nurses are reflecting on their practice and striving for continuous professional improvement.