A model to manage continuous professional development for the alumni of a private higher education institution
Castleman, E. M.
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Health services in a country are affected by many factors, one of which is the human resources that render those services. One of the dimensions of human resources that will impact on the effectiveness of the health services is their competence. There are three phases of health education, namely basic health professions education; postgraduate health professions education; and continuous professional development. This study will focus on the third phase of continuous professional development of health professionals. The purpose of continuous professional development is defined in this study as high quality patient care and the outcomes to improve, maintain and further develop competencies regarding skills, knowledge and attitude in order to meet the changing needs of both patients and the health care delivery system. Globally there is more emphasis on the role of higher education institutions in continuous professional development. It was evident from the literature that higher education institutions should have a strategy as continuous professional development providers in order to be effective and efficient in contributing to attaining the outcomes of continuous professional development. The question that has arisen was, “How should the model to manage continuous professional development for alumni of a private higher education institution (PHEI) be composed in order to be conducive to the outcomes of continuous professional development, which are improved competencies of health professionals?” Given the situation the problem that was addressed was that there was no model to be implemented by the Foundation for Professional Development [a Provisionally Accredited Private Higher Education Institution in terms of section 54(3) of Act No. 101 of 1997 (RSA 1997)] focusing in the health sector to enable it to take accountability to plan, organise, lead and control continuous professional development for its alumni which will support attainment of the purpose of continuous professional development. The aim of this study was to develop a model to manage continuous professional development for alumni of private higher education institutions in an effective and efficient manner. In the attempt to attain the aim the objectives pursued were a literature study to develop a framework of the model to manage continuous professional development inclusive of the most effective and efficient components of continuous professional development, while a questionnaire survey followed to identify the most preferred components of a model to manage continuous professional development for alumni of a PHEI to ensure effective implementation of the model. This was done by means of a custom designed questionnaire. The final objective in attainment of the aim was the triangulation of the information from the literature study, the results of the questionnaire survey, and conclusions to develop a model to manage continuous professional development. An empirical, non-experimental research design was followed in this quantitative study. A cross-sectional survey was employed because the respondents were approached only once to complete questionnaires and it was possible to make comparisons between subgroups and look at relationships between variables. Descriptive and inferential statistics were calculated and used to answer the research questions. The custom designed self-administered questionnaires collected information on respondents’ personal profiles, professional profiles, employment backgrounds, geographical profiles, communication preferences in an alumni network, alumni network interaction preferences, accreditation preferences by an alumni network, educational product needs in an alumni network, areas of expertise and interest, alumni network membership needs, and the alumni patient profile. The sample population for the current study was defined as: “Learners at the Foundation for Professional Development during August 2006 to November 2006”. On completion of their training these learners would become alumni of the Foundation for Professional Development and would become eligible for inclusion in a continuous development alumni programme. This population were therefore best positioned to test certain assumptions about a continuous professional development alumni network and start the building of a model to manage continuous professional development. A total number of 1968 learners attended workshops during this period and the entire population were presented with an opportunity to participate in the study. No sampling technique was therefore required. The objective of the literature review was to gather information to develop a framework for the model to manage continuous professional development. Continuous professional development with specific attention to the origin and the purpose of continuous professional development was reviewed. Then the purpose was defined, the process was reviewed and subsequently the trend of regulation of continuous professional development globally. The concept of credentialling was reviewed in relation to continuous professional development and integrated to assessment in continuous professional development. To gain a global perspective a review on international and South African trends in providers of continuous professional development and coordination of the function was provided. It was also necessary to review adults’ learning preferences, needs assessment, and continuous professional development learning methods as part of identifying best practices in composing the framework for managing continuous professional development for alumni of a PHEI. For the same reason learning networks, mentoring and personal continuous professional development plans were reviewed. The model to manage continuous professional development for the alumni of a PHEI is a triangulation of the literature study, the research results and conclusions. Application of the model will ensure fulfilment of the continuous professional development functions of a PHEI in their responsibility towards their alumni in a planned and coordinated manner. It is supportive of continuous professional development in a cyclic and continuous manner, applying the principles of adult learning and credentialling. Assessment is an integral part of the quality assurance on the various levels. It is based on a network principle in that it utilises existing infrastructure and expertise in a decentralised manner to make continuous professional development convenient and relevant to learners. Integrated in the model is managed communication with alumni based on the research results. Information to plan, organise, implement and evaluate continuous professional development is another integral component of the model. According to the level of assessment alumni will be accredited in the network on five levels with associated benefits to promote continuous professional development and nurture a culture of lifelong learning with an emphasis on planned learning and improvement of practice. The researcher is of the opinion that PHEIs shall be capacitated by the model developed and through implementation of the model to manage continuous professional development for alumni of a PHEI, the overall goal, aim and objectives of the study to facilitate continuous professional development in South Africa will contribute to the optimisation of health care in South Africa. The researcher did not imply that this model should be implemented in its original form, but that the intention is that each HEI should customise the model according to its own unique situation and alumni needs and expectations. However, the process followed and components of the model could be repeated without reinventing the wheel. The implementation plan could therefore be utilised as a useful guideline. The researcher is of the opinion that components of this contribution could also facilitate the management of continuous professional development in public HEIs in South Africa. Furthermore the researcher is also of the opinion that components of the contribution could be implemented internationally by HEIs. Therefore the overall goal, aim and objectives of the study were reached.