In these times of uncertainty, and not knowing how long we may be in lock down, we find ourselves with more free time and more stress than usual. As critical workers for the veterinary industry, we are all expected to continue professional development (CPD) throughout the year so even though the RCVS has amended the CPD required for registered veterinary nurses this year from 15 hours per annum to 11 hours due to the pandemic we still need to improve our nursing practice. If you are wondering how you will manage to complete your hours, this blog will help kick-start you into considering setting up your own in-house CPD.

Why provide in-house CPD?

In-house CPD is promoted by the RCVS Quality Improvement initiative and will benefit other staff members as well as yourself. The CPD you provide will be free and allow others to build up their CPD without financial concerns that many may be feeling at the moment. It will also create a great learning environment within your practice to start to talk openly about different scenarios and take note of any weaknesses on knowledge within the team, or identify issues that may be occurring (clinical auditing). This is also something that can look great on your CV for applying to new jobs or for senior roles within your practice.

Overcoming Nerves

Does the thought of leading a CPD session strike you with fear? Doing any CPD makes everyone feel a little bit anxious, some more than others. Nerves can range from just feeling butterflies in your stomach to feeling your heart racing, sweating, negative thoughts encircling your mind, and even nausea. For me, I was the latter person, I had both physical and mental symptoms but really loved learning and wanted to share my learning with others.

Here are a few tips for dealing with symptoms;

Negative thoughts – Create a list of worse case scenarios from ‘I won’t remember what to say’ and next to it write a positive ‘I will get valuable information across’. Once you have thought on the possible issues, you can create a tool to help you manage the situations e.g. ‘I will use prompt cards to read from if needed’.

You can use this in all aspects, for another example, ‘I’m terrible at public speaking’ the positive; ‘I will learn a new skill of public speaking’.

Our own self-doubt is the real problem and not what people think of us, if you can overcome your negative thoughts this is a huge step forward to gaining your confidence (Speak for success).

Physical symptoms – Remember that the adrenaline kick you get lets you become more motivated and enthusiastic towards your audience and you will come across better! The aim of controlling your physical symptoms is not to stop yourself from getting an adrenaline rush for public speaking, but to maintain a sufficient adrenaline level to enhance your performance. Your nerves will reduce with each CPD session you do.

You can also reduce the fear by changing your approach; sit down whilst you are speaking, and open your CPD up for questions and comments throughout so it feels like an informal session where you and your colleagues are learning a new skill together.

Give the attendees a hard copy of the information you are presenting to follow along your presentation so you can feel that not ‘all eyes are on you’.

With regards to the pandemic, the online approach does normally take a lot of pressure off yourself as most people will be looking at the presentation from their screen- it is certainly a good starting point and then after the pandemic progress to speaking in public (Smith, 2014).

Mindfulness and cognitive behaviour therapy can also be useful. There are a lot of mindfulness videos online to watch and listen to, also you can reach out to a mental health expert. For example, I used hypnotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy to change my mindset on how to deal with an anxious situation such as public speaking (Mindful presenter).

How to be a good speaker

As mentioned previously, you can set up your CPD to be online, or sitting down and with hard copy or additional information online. The idea is to keep your audience interested in what you are talking about, making sure you’re not monotonously reading from your presentation notes, remember to look up and engage with your audience. You may also want to include some scenarios for them to act out during the presentation, or ask them questions and ensure they feel confident in asking questions. Explain something and then get the audience to feedback their knowledge. For example, explain ASA grading to the audience, follow-up by asking, ‘Can you give me an example of an ASA grade II you’ve seen in practice this last week?’

You should read up and feel confident with your presentation, have presentation notes separate to your hard copy so people have to listen rather than read off the screen (talk around bullet points and images). Rehearse your slide-show with a friend or family member, and receive both positive and constructive feedback from them. If no one is available your pets can also be your audience when practising at home (my two dogs must have listened to my CPD on anaesthesia about ten times now!).

Before your presentation, try not to eat an hour beforehand, avoid cigarettes and coffee an hour before too, and of course dress for success (Public speaking anxiety).

How to Get Started

So, if you are feeling pumped and ready to go with some extra free time in the pandemic and are now wondering- where do I start? Find a subject that you are really interested in and start making some presentation notes. If you are unsure on what subject you want to do, ask your colleagues what they would like more training on. Use the words ‘free CPD’ as that normally gets the ball rolling! Make sure you can back your CPD up with lots of current journals and evidence to present to your team. You may even want to suggest auditing too.

Plan, prepare and go from there!

There are lots of online platforms that you can set up from your laptop, phone, computer and other smart devices at home. Microsoft Teams and Zoom are free and easy to use. If you have never used these before, remember to have a practice with someone online before you do your presentation. You are able to use your screen as your presentation so people can see the slide show and you can pull up interesting videos too. Make sure to do yourself a bibliography too, some students and other members of staff may wish to use this for their own assignments or certificates.

Have a go, what’s the worst that can happen!

Victoria Camburn RVN CertVNECC

Senior Support Nurse at VetsNow in Gillingham.