How to create a personal development plan

A personal development plan (PDP) is crucial for helping you to identify your educational needs, set objectives, undertake and monitor educational activities, and provide evidence of your continuing professional development (CPD). Read on for our tips on how to make your PDP work for you.

What is a PDP?

A PDP is crucial for helping you to identify your educational needs, set objectives, undertake and monitor educational activities, and provide evidence of your CPD.

Equally crucial, however, is making sure that your PDP is attainable. Your PDP will act as the basis for appraisals, and you’ll need to show that you’ve met, or are on target to meet, the aims outlined in it.

Your PDP should be renewed or updated at least yearly – or, if you are in training, for each new post.

Your aims

It is good practice to include both long- and short-term aims in your PDP. Two of each is recommended.

If you like, include one ‘daring’ aim that excites you but may be difficult to achieve. The other three or four aims, however, must be achievable, or you could be accused of ‘failing’ to reach your objectives at your appraisal. Theoretically, some trusts could use this as an excuse to hold back pay progression.

Ask yourself what you didn’t achieve this year that you wanted to, and whether these aims are still possible. You could set one of these as a short-term aim. The other short-term aim should be something new that you have enthusiasm for.

Look at how the trust and department that you work in are developing. If your aims are similar to the trust and departmental aims, they are more likely to be achieved. If you are unsure where the department is going, one aim could be to develop a departmental strategy.

Play the long game – ask yourself what you want to be doing in 5 years’ time, and what you need to do to get there.

CPD

Assess how much study leave you have and how you want to use it. Never finish a year without having used all your study leave. If you do not have study leave funding, talk to your British Medical Association (BMA) representative.

Identify courses that will help with your aims and sign up early. Good courses (especially for consultants) usually fill up quickly.

Your PDP should have some relationship to your job plan, and can be used to change your job plan in job‐planning sessions. For example, if you want to develop a particular practical procedure, you can argue for increased time in your job plan for this. Make your PDP work for you.

Find out who your appraiser is and discuss your PDP with them prior to your appraisal. This makes it more likely that your PDP will be approved.

Beware of trust ‘additions’ to your PDP. For example, an aim may be added ‘to help achieve trust targets’. Ensure that you know exactly what you are signing up to. Many of these targets are reasonable, but they must not compromise your own objectives.

 

Dr Andrew Goddard

RCP Registrar