Five Elements of an Effective Learning Plan

Last Updated: 04 April 2022

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An effective learning plan is not just a list of resources you plan to complete within a set period of time. This sort of plan leads to undirected learning, which will not have lasting effects on your practice nor your confidence, particularly if it’s only loosely linked to your present practice.

In reality, an effective learning plan is actually a collection of intentions, goals and professional destinations that you aim to reach using targeted and dedicated learning opportunities. When you take the time to set yourself these intentions and goals, you are reducing the wasted time and energy that can otherwise slow your learning down.

At Ausmed we know that starting can be the most daunting part of any task, so we’ve created a collection of questions to ask yourself when formulating your own learning plan for the compliance period ahead.

1. Last year, were you happy with your professional development?

There is nothing to lose and everything to gain from critically engaging with your last CPD period's successes and failures. Clearly, it’s wise to repeat the things that worked for you (eg. setting up a weekly learning schedule) but how should you engage with the choices that didn’t work for you?

First, expand on why you think it didn’t work for you. For example, if the issue is that you couldn’t find time to complete learning, why is that? What blocked you from completing learning on your breaks, or while enjoying downtime at home? Is it because your platform doesn’t have a smartphone app? How can this be rectified for the next CPD period? Eventually you’ll come to the answer that will improve your learning experience; in this situation, the answer would be to change to a platform with a responsive smartphone app, such as Ausmed.

Next, assess your own habits. Do you start learning resources but not complete them? Is what you’re learning relevant to not only your current area of practice, but also your dream future career? Make sure you’re looking at your learning experience from both an in-depth and overall perspective.

2. What are you interested in?

The more you enjoy the learning experience, the more information you’ll remember. With this in mind, it’s a smart move to focus your professional development and learning on topics that you find genuinely interesting (obviously this does not apply to mandatory training, as it’s compulsory).

So, what is an aspect of your current practice that you want to delve a little bit deeper into? If you’re a midwife, maybe you want to do further learning about post-natal maternal collapse as you’ve seen this event during your practice? Or if you’re a paramedic, perhaps you want to have a more nuanced and up-to-date understanding of assessing a patient who has overdosed on opioids? Dig deep and you’ll find some really engaging content.

While you have freedom to explore areas of your practice that may not necessarily be classed as ‘incompetencies’, make sure what you’re learning is still relevant to your practice. A great way to think about what you want to learn is to consider: how will this knowledge improve my next patient’s care experience?

3. Where do you want to learn?

Where can you find professional development resources, both online and in the workplace? Ausmed has a whole Learning Hub dedicated to Professional Growth, as well as another Learning Hub dedicated to Management and Leadership. These are a great place to start off your quest for professional mobility and satisfaction: explore the wide range of resources available and complete the ones that catch your eye.

Following this, use your newfound interest in certain professional development areas to pursue opportunities for learning in your workplace. Two great sources of opportunity are your direct manager and your organisation’s education director. The latter is especially important, as they can help you create opportunities for yourself and others to learn together: request speakers to give seminars, float the idea of a reading group, or even have CPD study sessions throughout the CPD period.

Many healthcare professionals align CPD with clinical or customer-related learning. This is not entirely accurate: while practical skills are important when completing CPD, your professional growth – in terms of upward mobility, leadership skills and communication skills – is just as important. Soft skills – also described as non-technical skills needed to complete your work – include your ability to communicate, empathise, negotiate and diffuse tense situations. Even in a critical health crisis, these skills help you and your team achieve the best outcome for the person in your care. These are best learned from people around you, such as superiors and influential peers, but online options are also available for more theoretical approaches to topics such as negotiation and mediation.

4. Who do you want to work with?

Not all CPD is completed online: you can mentor or be mentored, join a professional reading group, attend webinars and events or even just collaboratively problem solve while on shift. With this in mind, is there anyone in your team or department that you would like to work more closely with in order to learn their tricks of the trade? This is a great opportunity to both learn from a peer and also grow your professional network.

Perhaps you worked in a care team with someone from a different specialty and you were impressed with how they handled the case? Or you attended a webinar in the past year where someone presented a very interested piece of research from their area of practice? Shoot them an email or ask a colleague to introduce you: you lose nothing from broadening your scope of practice!

5. Where can you feasibly be by the end of the year, or the CPD period?

This is your opportunity to dream big and shoot for the stars with your learning. Are you a registered nurse now and want to be specialising in Intensive Care Nursing within the next twelve months? Work that into your plan by up-skilling in areas such as crisis care, perioperative anaesthetic care and cardiac clinical deterioration warning signs: you could use Ausmed's Emergency, Critical Care and Trauma Hub to get you started.

Or maybe you’re a paramedic and want to move to the next stage of leadership? Incorporate mentorship from your superior into your learning plan, and bolster this learning by keeping a learning journal and logging this learning via the ‘Document CPD’ button in the top righthand corner of your dashboard.

Stagnation in healthcare can lead to emotional and physical fatigue, resentment of the profession, and complete burnout. Setting goals that move you – even laterally – is the key to creating a sustainable attitude toward growth and work.

What else can you do to bolster your learning, both self-directed and mandatory?

Aside from planning, it’s a great idea to understand the ways your brain responds to the intake of information. Keep an eye on Ausmed's Learning Theories page. We’re locating the best learning theories from across the academic globe and making them into engaging explanations so that you can get the most out of all your learning experiences.

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