How Does Continuous Learning Impact Nursing Practice?


There was a time when we knew nothing about our bodies. Our physicality was as much a mystery to us once as space is now. Since the first days of medical science, mankind has endeavored to keep learning about our bodies and the systems that power them. We have come a long way since the days of trepanning and thinking that the uterus wandered around like an errant critter. We wish we were making that up. Yet despite the range of education out there, bachelor’s degrees in chemistry, postgraduate nursing courses, and doctorates, it seems that pursuing a career in medicine is to pursue a life of continuous education.

This can raise a few questions. What is this continuous education? How does it work? Why is it necessary? Does it have to be at a university? If you’re interested in a nursing career, or indeed any medical profession, stay with us as we take you through exactly how continuous learning impacts nursing practice.

Research and Development

Science is not based on just watching and waiting, but rather through deliberate attempts to cause change through experimentation. Scientists of all walks of life begin by observing a phenomenon, forming a theory as to how it occurs, constructing a hypothesis, experimenting with that hypothesis, and then noting the experiment’s results, before starting all over again to research the desired effect and what causes it.

This is being done all the time by scientists in all branches of science, including medicine. With such constant study and research it’s clear to see that there would be almost constant updates to knowledge, available resources, machinery, practices, and medical knowledge. When working with people’s quality of life, or even whether a person lives or dies, medical professionals have a duty of care to the patients they look after to ensure that they’re using the most up-to-date methods with the most up-to-date knowledge.

Continuing Professional Development

So how do nurses engage with this necessity of continual education? The answer comes through CPD, Continuing Professional Development. CPD is how nurses and midwives access the latest educational resources around their profession. This includes tools, techniques, research, and legal information.

According to the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA), the current regulation authority for primary-care nurses, all nurses and midwives are expected to undertake a minimum of 20 hours of CPD per year. They must be relevant to the nurse/midwife’s context of practice (midwifery, geriatric nursing, family practice, emergency practice, psychiatric nursing, etc).

However, what form can CPD take? And what’s necessary for an activity to be considered CPD?

CPD Activities

Nurses can undertake a wide range of activities to meet their CPD requirements. These include:

Conventions and Conferences:

These events are often large-scale and can take place over a few days. They involve large numbers of professionals and authorities in the industry showing off new developments and delivering talks, lectures, and workshops. Smaller scale conventions called “seminars” generally just go for a few hours and have a few speakers. There are also online seminars called “webinars” that can count towards CPD hours.

Tertiary Education

Pursuing postgraduate studies in your field can count towards your CPD, and can also help you further your career. You may think that you need to leave your job to study, however, it is quite possible to study and work at the same time, your place of employment may even contribute to or subsidise the cost of your education.

In-House Learning

Some educational bodies offer relevant short courses and educational resources designed specifically to help nurses meet their CPD requirements. These courses offer relatively quick solutions to meeting CPD requirements.

Aside from these, there are other ways to meet your CPD requirement, but if you’re not sure about a particular course or kind of study you want to do, feel free to reach out to your state’s nursing authority, or your employer, to see whether or not your desired activity will count towards your CPD.

CPD is not only important to your continual development as a healthcare professional and your patients but to your career as well. Professional bodies frequently and randomly audit CPD records. Failure to meet the CPD requirements of your employer or state may result in employment termination, possibly even a loss or suspension of your legal ability to practice.

The Impact

In short, CPD and the professional development process are hugely impactful on nursing practice. Ensuring that our nurses and other healthcare professionals have consistent access to the latest information regarding their careers is tantamount to sustaining the quality of care that Australians expect from our healthcare services.

CPD ensures that nurses receive the most up-to-date and relevant information pertinent to their jobs, and also encourages a healthy level of advancement for those in a nursing career, as many go on to pursue further qualifications and fill leadership or similar authority positions. CPD is not merely a legal requirement to practice in Australia, it is a system put in place to ensure that our nurses are some of the best in the world.


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