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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 (PDF) 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 BCCNP 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. Nurses who have taken part in Multisource Feedback will use the Professional Development (PD) Plan section of My Professional Plan to create and evaluate professional development goals.

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

    PD activities for NPs

    Select a minimum of three professional development activities from six categories of options. The options are outlined below. At least one activity must relate to the scope of nurse practitioner practice, ​e.g., diagnosing and managing disease, prescribing medications.

    An NP's professional development plan should contain comprehensive details of their activities including the relevance and impact for their practice. For example, they should record the title, duration and evidence of participation in continuing education or journal titles and their critique.

    Option 1: Attend continuing education forums

    Examples may include conferences, workshops, clinical updates or rounds that target clinical treatment, including pharmaco-therapeutics or other aspects relevant to your nurse practitioner practice (e.g., ethics).

    • It is most beneficial if the continuing education is at the nurse practitioner level or greater (e.g., for physicians).
    • Record the events attended including titles, duration, and evidence of your participation.
    Option 2: Critically review relevant literature

    This may include reading and critiquing professional journals at the nurse practitioner level or participating in a journal club that targets clinical treatment, including prescribing.

    • Note the journals reviewed (e.g. journal title, your critique, journal club meeting dates and membership). Consider how it might impact your practice.
    Option 3: Take an academic credit course

    Take or audit academic credit course(s) or enrol in an accredited or academic program at the level of a nurse practitioner/advanced practice nursing. The focus should be applicable to your context of practice or the scope of nurse practitioner practice.

    • Keep a record of course completion including the course number, credits, and transcript(s).
    Option 4: Teach

    Teach an educational seminar, presentation or lecture. Teaching might include providing a lecture or tutoring health professionals, presenting at a professional conference, thesis committee work or preceptoring at the nurse practitioner level. Teaching that is part of role function is not suitable for this option.

    • Record details of your presentation/teaching, including your teaching material and the date and setting of your presentation.
    • If you choose the preceptoring option, it is recommended that you provide direct supervision to a nurse practitioner student for a minimum of 25 hours. You may also choose to preceptor medical students, as long as you are also preceptoring nurse practitioner students. Record the dates and duration of the preceptoring.
    Option 5: Write for publication

    Write for publication. For example, write an article in a journal or a chapter in a text that facilitates the integration of evidence-based knowledge into practice.

    • It is recommended that your authored or co-authored text is submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal or text.
    • The subject area should be related to your nurse practitioner practice.
    • Keep a record which includes a copy of the article or chapter, the publication’s front cover, the publisher’s information, and the table of contents.
    Option 6: Research

    Conduct research. For example, undertake relevant clinical research activities or participate in a clinical research collaborative project that contributes to the understanding and development of evidence-based nursing knowledge. This might include completing a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation relevant to your stream of nurse practitioner practice. Recommendations for this option:

    • The research should be relevant to your stream of nurse practitioner practice.
    • It is most beneficial if you are the principal or co-investigator and participate in the preparation of the materials for the review board or granting agency.
    • Keep a record of your research proposal and progress over time.
    • The same research activity may contribute to your professional development plan for up to three years. Evidence should reflect that the project is progressing.

    FAQs

    I am interested in Option 4: Teach, however the criteria outlines that if teaching is a part of a role function, it is not acceptable. Teaching is an important part of NP practice so how can I use this option?
    “Role function” in this option refers to a function required of your employment or position as a nurse practitioner. For example, if you are required to teach a course as part of your employment, it does not satisfy this option. Presenting at a professional conference or teaching a course aside from your regular employment are examples of activities that, fulfil this option.
    The Professional Development Plan used to require I choose 2 activities from options 1 – 3 and 1 activity from options 4 – 6. What has changed?
    The requirement to choose 3 activities from the 6 options hasn’t changed and one activity still needs to relate to the unique scope of nurse practitioner practice. The BCCNP Nurse Practitioner Standards Committee previously made a recommendation of choosing 2 activities from options 1-3 because they may better address the individual learning needs identified through your self-assessment and peer feedback than options 4, 5, and 6. The principle to remember is that the learning activities you choose should address the learning needs that are identified in your self-assessment, peer feedback and onsite review (if applicable). This is the foundation of the learning activity requirement.
    Option 3 suggests enrolling in and academic credit course or an accredited academic program. This is difficult because there are few options in B.C. Can you provide some suggestions for how to fulfil this option?
    You are not required to enrol in an academic program to fulfil this option. Courses (including online courses) applicable to your context of practice or scope of nurse practitioner practice would also be acceptable. You can also choose to audit a course in this option. An example might include completing an online course on HIV / AIDS management equivalent to 15 contact hours.
    Does my onsite peer review of practice count towards my professional development / learning activities?
    Although the onsite peer review may identify areas in which you need to learn or develop knowledge, it is separate from your personal professional development plan. You are encouraged to use the feedback from your onsite review to inform the professional development activities you include in your plan, however.

    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. For nurses participating in Multisource Feedback, evaluation of the learning goals they identified in their PD Plan is an important step in the process.

    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.​

    Each BCCNM designation has its own set of Standards of Practice.

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