Long term development: What does professional development mean

Does professional development mean you attended a lot of weekend courses or get a bunch of memberships to professional organizations?

I know I used to think so. I even remember hearing a colleague brag about how much continuing education they had in one year.

Oh man, you had 85 hours of continuing education when only 20 were required?

You are going to a new course every month?

The implication is that the continuing education course or passive membership in a professional organization means you change your practice pattern for the better.  This means better patient outcomes. Unfortunately, this relationship is far from clear.  Its actually been studied with the results indicating educational meetings alone are not effective in changing patient outcomes.

In my own experience, I believe that building a long term study plan with a clear purpose for patient outcome improvements is needed.  When I sit down to line out my monthly study efforts, the first goal is to highlight an area of need based on reviewing my caseload of the previous month.

My thoughts go something like this:

“I thought this patient should have progressed slower with this adductor longus strain.”

Why was I off?

Was it a knowledge issue? (meaning I did not know enough about tendon healing times)

Was it a skill issue? (meaning did my exam screw me up or did I suck at getting all of the information from the patient)

Now I do a brief literature review and get articles pertaining to what I think the issue was.  I lay out actionable items for my daily practice (meaning when I with a patient) and I use the verbiage and skill obsessively.

Here is an example- I used to misdiagnose hip impingements with adductor tendon lesions.  My prognoses and outcomes were not consistent and I was finding it frustrating to see huge variations in my outcomes (If you are wondering, huge variations in the same diagnosis mean something is off with what you are doing.)  So I really dug into my exam.  From my reflection, I felt that I getting bad information in my exam and interview. My error was occurring during my interview process, resistive testing, and special testing.

I corrected this by being very clear on what consistuted each diagnosis, what I should feel during each exam, and highlighting every case where either of these pathologies were possible differentials.  The variations in outcome diminished I understood that I had been diagnosing adductor longus lesions as a hip impingement because of sloppy exam technique.

In my opinion, long term development requires more of this type of thinking. When someone talk about going to continuing education, I always ask what changes you are making to your practice based on it.  If you did not make a change, then it was a wasted class.  Further, the education plan you give yourself is more important than any class you could attend.

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