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A personal development plan isn’t just for Christmas (or July)

Plan-Do-Reflect-Record spiral

So how is your personal development plan (PDP) faring? Are you carrying out your planned CPD activities, recording them and updating your PDP accordingly? Is it helping your career development and optimising the time you have set aside?  It should be, but it won't if the only attention it gets is at the end of the CPD year!

The GDC made holding a PDP a mandatory requirement with the introduction of the enhanced CPD scheme. Previously a PDP was a recommendation, yet very few registrants maintained one unless they needed to (those enrolled in training programmes or in the military are good examples). Like most New Year resolutions, the intention is laudable but the execution often found wanting. By making it mandatory the GDC hoped that it will help registrants "take ownership" of the process.(1) The danger is that it will be just another tick-box exercise that keeps the regulator happy, gives the illusion that the scheme is working but in reality only adds to the administrative burden.

A PDP is to a career what a business plan is to practice growth and development. Would you apply for financing without a business plan? Of course not. Planning enables you to think about what your needs are and optimise the time devoted to CPD activities so that they are most likely to be fruitful.

Creating a PDP is not difficult. What is key is that it is simple to do, easy to update, and crucially produces results. The principle is straightforward: identify your learning needs, specify activities to fulfil them, record the outcomes and then update the plan. Like the daily oral hygiene procedures that we try to instil in our patients, it is a habit that needs to be formed. Once the benefits are realised, no further encouragement should be needed.

Whilst creating a plan is not difficult it will be unfamiliar, and most registrants will probably not have the benefit of a personal tutor to offer assistance.(2) The GDC has helpfully produced two templates in Microsoft Word format and accompanying guidance that allows you to create a plan and record your CPD. We have gone one step further and designed an Excel spreadsheet that combines the two. It offers other benefits, including totalling up your accumulated CPD automatically for each CPD year, making your end of year submission easy.

Whichever you use, they can be stored securely in "the cloud" so they are readily available from your computer, phone or tablet and backed up automatically. If you use OneDrive, you can even use the free versions of Excel or Word. You are in control.

Once you have created your plan and carried out a CPD activity, update your PDP/CPD log as soon as possible. Make a note to review your reflection a month or so later. If you find that something you learnt has made an impact make sure that it is recorded. When that moment of inspiration strikes and you want to follow it up, add it to your plan. Don't delay! Do the same when you discover an "unknown unknown" (that is something you can't plan for in your PDP.)(3)

For better or worse the GDC dropped the requirement to record general CPD under the enhanced CPD scheme, so the temptation will be to use the plan to note and record only verifiable activities. This would be a mistake because the plan is primarily for your benefit, not the GDC's. Just because an activity is not verifiable does not mean that it has no value.

Our course "Personal Development Planning and CPD recording: Making them work for you" covers the subject in detail and is included with our Core 365 and Complete 365 annual memberships. Our Excel template is free to download and use, and the free course "Making the most of The Dental Channel" illustrates it in action. If you have any questions about its use after watching the video, create a discussion in the accompanying community group.

It will be interesting to see what effect the introduction of maintaining a PDP as a mandatory requirement has upon registrants' attitudes. You have read this far so you must be interested. Are you actively maintaining a PDP? Have you found it beneficial? What are the barriers? Is this just another box to be ticked? Please add a comment and let us know.


  1. Shifting the balance [Internet]. [cited 2017 Mar 24]. Available from: https://gdc-uk.org/about/what-we-do/regulatory-reform
  2. Bullock A, Firmstone V, Frame J, Bedward J. Enhancing the benefit of continuing professional development: a randomized controlled study of personal development plans for dentists. Learn Health Soc Care. 2007 Mar 1;6(1):14–26.
  3. Hamilton B. Improve leadership performance by embracing your unknown unknowns [Internet]. The Leadership People. 2015 [cited 2019 Jun 17]. Available from: https://tlp.consulting/blog/2015-10-26-why-your-unknown-unknowns-present-a-great-opportunity-for-personal-development
A free course that includes instruction on using our PDP/CPD Excel template
Video guide to using our Excel template
Our course on planning, recording and evaluating your CPD
Autumn 2019
Create your fundraising page on The Dental Channel

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