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CPD and Searching for courses

Professional development for revalidation purposes or to help with your career 

You may need to find courses for short term goals, such as maintaining your practice and meeting your revalidation requirements, or for longer term goals such as furthering your career or changing career direction.

The RCN Careers Team can't tell you which courses to take, but this page can point you in the right direction.

Searching for courses for career progression

You may want to explore courses for longer term goals, such as developing and progressing within your existing career or changing career direction altogether.

We often get queries from members asking us to recommend courses, or ask us what we think would be the best course to take. Unfortunately, we're unable to advise on this. 

The "best course" depends on what you as an individual are looking for, and only you will be able to judge whether it will be right for you, your lifestyle, your learning goals, your skill set and your ambitions. 

In order to find the best course for you and your career, you'll need to do some careful research.

The RCN has a number of forums in various areas and specialisms of nursing. Each forum has its own RCN member only Facebook group, which you can request to join. Here you can connect and engage with your peers on a variety of issues, and could ask for advice about courses in your desired field, or seek recommendations or ideas.

Our Nursing Career Pathways resource has lots of useful information on different types of roles including relevant courses and qualifications. 

If you're looking for a short course to help you to progress in your desired field have a look at the Examples of courses and e-learning

If you need inspiration, have a browse of different nursing courses on the Postgraduate Search website, filtering by the clinical area you're interested in. Remember, you may just be able to do an individual module from a diploma or degree programme.

Study job adverts for the types of roles (or level of roles) you're aspiring to work in. Pay attention to the Person Specification and Job Description, as sometimes these outline the courses or qualifications that are deemed essential or desirable for the role. You may also be able to identify skills or knowledge gaps and consider which courses you could do to bridge them. 

Don't be afraid to contact the nominated manager, recruitment department or employer for more information on what they'd be looking for in a suitable candidate.

Remember to use your contacts or network with other healthcare workers to get advice and recommendations. This may be a good time to organise an informal visit.

You could also contact your local university or college to get information and advice about the different courses they run, explore any learning goals, or discuss the possibility of crediting prior learning. You can find out about course content, fees and funding options. You'll also usually be able to get in contact with  the course leaders or tutors if you want more in depth information. 

Speak to your employer about development, progression and courses. There may already be career pathways in place within your workplace or opportunities you could be put forward for. Alternatively, you may want to make a business case for yourself.

Once you've got some ideas, you can start to consider whether the course or desired career path will fit in with your values, objectives and of course, your lifestyle. If you want to discuss your ideas with a Career Coach take a look at our Coaching page

You may need to consider what opportunities the course would open up for you, when would be the right time for you to pursue it, how you'd fund it if necessary, or how you'd balance it around your life, work, or family.

Checklist for finding a course

Have you:

  • Contacted your local university or college for information and advice?
  • Asked your line manager for support or advice on courses, opportunities or pathways?
  • Spoken to your peers in the RCN forums?
  • Researched courses and qualifications that interest you online?
  • Used your contacts or networked with other healthcare professionals?
  • Studied job adverts or spoken to hiring employers to identify which courses are sought after in your chosen field? 

Returning to practice, second registration, top-up degrees and APL 

If you have an active nursing registration but are not currently working in clinical practice, you can access an online training programme called back to the floor on the eLearning for Health platform to help you gain confidence before returning to the workplace.

Accreditation for Prior Learning (APL) is a process by which you can gain credit(s) towards another qualification, meaning you could complete the programme in a shorter amount of time and avoid having to revisit any learning you've already acquired. APL can be:

  • Certificated (APCL) - Where credit is given for previous learning which has been formally assessed, and for which a certificate has been awarded
  • Experiential (APEL) - Where credit is given for knowledge and skills which have been developed through experience, e.g. work, voluntary, self directed study. 

Each university will have different rules and processes regarding APL, so contact them directly for further advice.

If you’re a nurse and wish to register in a second field of nursing (adult, child, learning disability or mental health), then you should speak with your local university (or a university of your choice) for more details. Different universities have different processes regarding this, but depending on the circumstances, you may only be required to study for as little as a year.

Second registration midwifery programmes are also provided through some universities with a nursing and midwifery department. Speak to universities directly for more information and advice.

If you have a diploma in nursing but want to "top-up," to degree level, then you should speak directly with universities for further advice on course content and fees.

Some universities offer specific nursing top-up degree courses. Other universities may advise you on gathering modules to build upon existing qualifications and obtain degree level. Each university can have different rules and options so it's advisable to speak to several.

If you are employed, speak to your manager or HR department for further advice on whether they can support you to do your top up degree and/or provide help with funding. 

Enrolled nurses wishing to top up should also speak directly to universities to explore possible options. 

For a list of approved Return to Practice (RTP) programmes, see approved programmes on the NMC website. (Select "return to practice," in the course field.)

Your local education and training board will have information about RTP opportunities in your area, depending on whether you live in EnglandWalesScotland or Northern Ireland.

If you are in England, some counties are offering "Return to General Practice Nursing" courses. You don't have to have any previous experience within Practice Nursing; just a desire to return to nursing within this area.

Course fees are paid for, and you'll get up to £500 to help with travel, childcare and study material costs. See the HEE website's Return to General Practice Nursing for more details.

Searching for CPD or courses to maintain your practice

The following options may help you to maintain your practice and meet your revalidation requirements.

Here are some examples of courses, CPD activities, and e-learning, along with CPD websites where you can search for courses and learning modules. (Please note, this page is for RCN members only.)

Participatory CPD isn't just limited to courses or study days, and there are actually lots of ways to meet your quota. Have a look at the NMC guidance for some more examples and ideas.

Contact your local university or college and ask for information about study days, short courses, and discuss how they might be able to meet your learning needs. You may be able to complete modules or units that would usually form part of a diploma or degree programme.

If you're employed, ask your manager or learning coordinator about learning opportunities. If you're doing agency work, then your agency may provide courses and training or be able to recommend providers.

There may be a RCN learning rep or Practice Education Facilitator within your workplace. They may be able to support you with your learning and development in a number of ways, such as facilitating CPD in your workplace, helping you negotiate your learning or study time with your employer, exploring ways to plug any knowledge gaps you might have, signposting and providing information, keeping you up to date with learning opportunities, or organising events such as seminars, study days and workshops with employers or local branches. .

If you don't have a RCN Learning rep or Practice Education Facilitator in your workplace, contact RCN Direct to get advice on where we might be able to signpost you, or whether to refer you to your local RCN office if appropriate.

Contact your local branch to enquire about local CPD opportunities and events. Most RCN branches organise free learning activities, or can look at putting together future learning activities if there's enough interest.

See our page RCN accredited events and resources to search for training, webinar, courses, workshops, e-learning, etc. that have been accredited by the RCN.

RCN forums are professional networks based on an area or specialty of nursing. Join for free and then access your forum's Facebook group, a space where you can engage with your peers for advice and support, or discuss CPD opportunities, courses, qualifications or recommendations.

Principles for continuing professional development and lifelong learning in health and social care

The Principles are important for everyone working in a health and social care setting where practicing safely and effectively, now and in the future, is essential.

Find out more about how they can help you get the best out of your CPD and LLL opportunities.

RCN Learn: Education and development for the nursing workforce

RCN Learn supports nurses, students, nursing support workers, midwives and health care professionals at all stages of your career.

Unlock expert, quality assured evidence-based education for CPD and learning, whenever and wherever suits you.
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