Developing the Profession and Continuous Professional Competence

The progress of pre-hospital emergency care services in Ireland is continuing to develop in line with international best practice over the last number of years. The introduction and implementation of clinical practice guidelines, including the associated medications that can now be used by registered practitioners, and the introduction of a statutory register for pre-hospital practitioners, are just some of the initiatives that have assisted in elevating the role of the practitioner, and indeed the profession, both nationally and internationally.

The need to maintain this professionalisation and to advance pre-hospital practitioner development is essential, if the profession is to continue to develop in line with other professions generally and healthcare professions specifically. Other regulated professions including the legal, pharmaceutical, medical and nursing professions have already developed, or are in the process of developing, models of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) within their own professions.

One explanatiaon as to the purpose of Continuous Professional Development, as described by the Health Professions Council of South Africa, is:

‘. . . to assist health professionals to maintain and acquire new and updated levels of knowledge, skills and ethical attitudes that will be of measurable benefit in professional practice and to enhance and promote professional integrity. The beneficiary will ultimately be the patient/client’. (HPCSA, 2009) 

There are many, and in fact probably too many, definitions and related terms associated with CPD. Some of these terms are professionspecific such as CME (continuous medical education) associated with medicine. In an effort to address the potential confusion over terminology and to give a specific focus on the purpose of continuous improvement PHECC has adopted the term ‘Continuous Professional Competence (CPC)’. This new terminology will also be used in the new Education and Training Standards 2011.
Guided by the principle of ‘beneficence’ regulated healthcare professions recognise the need to update and develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes that underpin professional, competent practice through continuous professional competence. In so doing this protects the public interest while also promoting the individual 
registrant and the profession.

Similar to other regulated professions there is an onus of responsibility on the practitioner to commit to their own personal and professional development. Section 3.2 of the PHECC Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics states that a registrant shall ‘participate in ongoing CPD (CPC) requirements of the relevant division of the Register’. 
  The purpose of the project is to develop a model of CPC for all registered pre-hospital practitioners in Ireland. Research will be conducted under the auspices of the Centre for Pre-Hospital Research (CPR)/Graduate Entry Medical School at the University of Limerick. This research will include current national and international models of CPD/CPC across many related professions. The implementation of a minimal model of CPC to address current requirements for PHECC registration will be the initial objective. This will ensure consistency for all registered practitioners and provide a platform to expand upon on a national basis.

Anecdotal evidence from international settings suggests that although CPD/CPC has emerged in response to the need for regulation, it has paid less attention to the job specific requirements for professionals in their respective fields of practice. Therefore one of the methodologies proposed is the use of an electronic survey to allow all registrants to input and influence the formulation of an Irish pre-hospital Continuous Professional Competency (CPC) model. 

Representative groups will be consulted nationally and focus groups, comprising of registrants, will also be an integral part of the process.

It is extremely important that those who will be directly affected by this initiative, i.e. pre-hopsital registrants, are active in contributing to the process. Registrants at every level are encouraged,therefore, to participate and inform the project through this widespread consultation process.

The development of an appropriate CPC model specifically for pre-hospital professionals will ultimately benefit the public we protect, the patients we treat, and add significantly to the development of the profession itself.

The consultation process will start immediately and if you wish to contribute with any ideas or information from your previous CPC related experiences, please contact Shane by email at Additionally a new link for CPC will be included on the PHECC website for information purposes.