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The practice of medicine implies life long learning, and the modern health service expects career grade doctors to engage in a programme of continuous professional development.1 Doctors are a highly motivated group, and so the expectation that they will participate seems well founded. For those in the training grades, professional development is supervised and made explicit within postgraduate medical education and training.2-4 Seniors have traditionally planned their professional development unassisted and in isolation. Most manage this with ease and confidence, moved forward by the day to day challenges of clinical practice, health service management, teaching, and research. However, a few do too little in preparing for the changes of their working lives, and as a result are resistant when confronted with new ideas or novel ways of doing things.
In responding to the needs of a patient, a doctor draws upon all of his or her wisdom and life experiences. These resources far exceed the confines of medical knowledge or transferable clinical skills. For doctors, professional conduct, core beliefs, and personal integrity are inextricably interwoven.5 This being the case, professional development is contained within personal development. Personal development is part of the process of life long learning and follows basic educational principles. It shares with education a common philosophy, ethical frame work, and psychology, as well as practical components. This article reflects on the commonality between the two, with reference to the needs of senior doctors. The parallel helps to make the learning processes of personal and professional development more explicit, and allows us to see where components such as reflection, mentoring, continuous medical education, and appraisal fit in.
The education cycle
Education begins by asking a question (fig 1). This entry step into the cycle is crucial in a number of ways. First, learning is facilitated when the process …
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