Monday, 5 September 2011

Professional development in diabetes care – How to make good choices

As we enter the new academic year, how’s your professional development portfolio looking? We’ve noticed that every diabetes journal holds at least a few, if not a rainforest full, of flyers showing the exciting number of educational opportunities for people working in the field of diabetes care.

In our experience, attendance at courses and conferences often provides gems of information that are really helpful in practice and make a huge difference. Equally, we’ve found it is possible to attend a conference and come away feeling dissatisfied that the one thing you hoped to get out of it wasn’t covered. So although it is fantastic that there are so many opportunities available, the sheer variety of choice and opportunities can be overwhelming. It can raise feelings of ‘how on earth could I go to all of the ones that interest me?’ – followed by ‘how on earth do I choose which will be of most use to me?’ And there is usually a £ sign attached, if only for travel and subsistence, so these thoughts come alongside the perennial ‘how do I spend the money I have available for education wisely?’

The question seems to be: how can we ensure that the conferences, workshops or other educational opportunities that are attended are the ones that will be most useful to us? We’ve put together some considerations to help get through this tricky dilemma.

First, take a moment to jot down some ideas of what kind of training you actually want at the moment – where are the gaps in your knowledge or skills? What do you struggle to get your head around? What topics make your heart sink when someone asks you a question in a consultation?

The next question to ask yourself is: what kind of learning do you want to experience? Are you happy to sit in front of a series of lectures, taking notes and having a quiet ‘aha!’ moment? Perhaps you prefer something a bit more interactive, where you can share your ‘ahas’ and learn about everyone else’s? Also consider if you like to be able to ask questions throughout the sessions or are happy to wait until question time after a presentation. Do you get frustrated if you don’t get a chance to comment on or debate the information you are being given? Perhaps the thought of having to contribute fills you with dread and sitting quietly at the back is more your thing?

A final deliberation is about money. Are you looking to take advantage of free or sponsored events only, or are you able to pay or have funds for a certain amount? Perhaps you’re in a position to choose the most appropriate event, regardless of the cost?  

Once you have considered all these questions, you can look again at the adverts and flyers for educational events. Armed with exactly what you are looking for, you’ll be able to focus on the topics, the method of presentation and the cost and quickly narrow down your options. When you sign up, you can feel confident that what you choose will be of real benefit and a good use of your valuable time.

Good luck and happy learning!

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