Certified public disaster
They face a long workday, a middling salary, and a physically and mentally exhausting work environment. There are limited employment opportunities, the need for unpaid “volunteer” training, and strict requirements for membership in their professional organizations. It’s hard enough being a nurse or a healthcare worker in the Philippines. Apparently, the Professional Regulation Commission thinks that adding another burden to these unsatisfactory work conditions is necessary.
It’s difficult not to be combative when discussing the “Continuing Professional Development” units that licensed professionals are required to collect. Every three years doctors and nurses are required to collect 45 CPD units, or be unable to renew their licenses. I can’t speak for other professions, ranging from geology to interior design, but there is clear discontent among workers of the healthcare industry. We already know that, as befits professionals who handle lives, it’s our duty to stay updated on developments in our field and continue our holistic growth. That’s easy to understand and appreciate, just as it’s easy to understand that the concept of CPD comes from a well-meaning place. But is the current CPD system really the way to go?
In this as in many other things, the junior members of the profession, with the most insecure careers and lowest salaries, suffer the most. Many new nurses are still unemployed or don’t have steady jobs within the first few years of licensure. They exhaust resources applying for certificates like basic life support (which also have to be renewed periodically) and paying for further training. On the other hand, many new doctors apply for grueling, poorly compensated residency training programs, during which it is difficult to access seminars and workshops unless these are offered by their own institutions. Somehow, these young doctors and nurses are expected to scrape up the money, time and transport to acquire 45 CPD units every three years.
While CPD is not necessarily a “business”—some organizations provide them for little to no cost—the fact remains that in order to comply, professionals will have to shell out money at some time or another. The application alone is costly. It is worse for those who are not in major cities with less access to CPD-accredited activities. It’s not enough that our doctors to the barrios should risk their lives to serve in far-flung areas; they also have to worry about how they’re going to journey back to the metro to process applications and bulk up CPD numbers. This is on top of the fact that professional organizations, like the Philippine Nursing Association and Philippine Medical Association, already require their own “units” for maintaining membership and good standing.
There’s also room for discussion when it comes to how units are assigned to activities. As of this writing, according to the Matrix of CPD Activities, a whole year of residency training is equivalent only to 10 CPD units. The publication of an academic article of one to three pages—no matter the months of effort and the depth of research—earns you only four units; three or less if you have coauthors. Surely we can do better than that.
The PRC appears to be doing its best. Just as it has streamlined applications for and renewal of licenses, it is now trying to make CPD inquiries and applications easier via online appointments and more locations. The system of CPD itself also isn’t inflexible; many activities, like medical missions or teaching, can be credited. But even as we’re in the early stages of CPD compliance, we should consider an overhaul, possibly by extending validity of licenses and reconsidering the numbers of units and their equivalent activities.
Encouraging continued professional development may be a good idea, but professionals are scrambling to renew licenses just to keep practicing, while barraged with unemployment, poor compensation, career instability and inadequate infrastructure to facilitate these CPD training seminars. Maybe it’s not yet a “certified public disaster,” but right now, it’s close.
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