Purposeful CPD

The requirement for ongoing continuing professional development (CPD) was first outlined to us at dental school.  It’s something every dentist is very aware of, the hours, the core subjects to cover and what happens if we don’t.  It’s also pretty easy to find with providers bombarding our inboxes and tea room notice boards, promoting  everything and anything coming up. We take hours of unpaid time out of the surgery, pay for courses, transport and accomodation.  We do it year after year for as long as we want to be dentists.


Think on that for a moment.  

Think of the time, the effort and the expense you pour into your CPD.

The consistency of it.

Now think about your continuing personal development, can you say the same about that?

I think it’s fair to say that most of us don’t apply the same consistency, let alone the same hours and variety.  

But what is personal development? Is it all big Tony Robbins moments and self help books?  Well it can be but it’s much broader than that.  Good old Wikipedia defines it as: 

‘covering activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations. Personal development takes place over the course of a person’s entire life. It is not limited to self-help.’ 

You could argue that CPD is part of personal development, and a small part at that.  I think my definition would be more along the lines of anything that results in learning and growth.  So, that could be as little and informal as trying a new recipe for dinner, taking time out to pick up an old hobby, or seeking an opportunity to improve on a current one.  It could also be as formal as enrolling on courses, educating yourself in other areas of interest outside of  your ‘dental’ CPD.  Ultimately, things you enjoy, things that energise you, that recharge your batteries.  

I tell you this because in retrospect, I neglected my personal development for years, maybe even a decade. It was a major factor in slowly burning out. It was gradual, life happened. Marriage, mortgage, kids and the like.  The time  and financial commitments increase, busier with less disposable income.  It was easier to put my needs to one side, dealing with work and home first.  Choosing swimming lessons for the kids over club hockey for me, choosing online CPD over courses that I was really interested in other cities.

It turned into doing the minimum, the easiest but ultimately not engaging growth and development outside of the crash course that is parenting young children around part time dentistry.  I put aside my hobbies and sport, I put aside conferences and courses, I forgot to do stuff just for me. It seemed selfish.  But, like putting that oxygen mask on before you help others, it’s quite the opposite.  Working on you, for you will have a knock on effect across everything you do.

There were a few ways I turned it around.  Again gradually, it’s not an overnight fix. A colleague started lending me some self help books, which I viewed quite sceptically at first but led me to look for other books.  Then I started looking for CPD that interested me, beyond that I started studying outside of dentistry, seeking non dental courses that lit me up.  As I did this, I found that it spilled into being a better dentist, mum, wife and friend.  I felt like me again, not this burnt out person that I didn’t recognise or understand.

It hasn’t been easy, it’s had to be purposeful but it has worked.  I was lucky enough to hear Gilbert Enoka, the mental skills coach for The All Blacks, speak recently.  He was quite clear that the key to resilience is to be purposeful with your energisers.  All stress and no recovery is a sure path to burn out.

So how’s your continuing personal development looking?