The Benefits of Lifelong Learning

The need to maintain high-quality professional, evidence-based practice is widely identified as an inherent responsibility of practicing health professionals today. Continuing professional development (CPD) is one of the processes by which health professionals keep up to date to meet the requirements of registration, the needs of consumers, health service changes, and their own professional development. CPD includes the continuous acquisition of new knowledge, skills, and attitudes to enable competent practice. 

The Occupational Therapy Board of Australia (OTBA) describes continuing professional development as ‘the means by which members of the profession maintain, improve and broaden their knowledge, expertise and competence, and develop the personal and professional qualities required throughout their professional lives’. Practicing occupational therapists in Australia must undertake CPD each year to maintain their registration. With the current changes to registration, it is now expected that the practicing occupational therapist completes a minimum of 20 hours of CPD, which must include 5 hours of interactive CPD.

The health and social environment of people living with disability in Australia has seen an enormous shift in service provision with increasing pressures towards more effective, efficient, and evidence-based practices that deliver improved outcomes for clients, particularly with the implementation of the NDIS. To prepare and equip occupational therapists working with these changes in service provision, new knowledge and skill development needs to be responsive to these changes and challenges that face the practicing health professional today.

What is Lifelong Learning?

Lifelong learning can be described as the ‘ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated’ pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons ( Lifelong learning is the provision or use of both formal and informal learning opportunities throughout our lives to foster the continuous professional development and improvement of the knowledge and skills needed for employment, professional registration and personal fulfilment.

Lifelong learning matters now more than ever as generic experience and flexibility cannot compete with serial mastery. The shelf life of skills is reducing year after year as the changing needs of the health services within Australia quickly evolve.

Understanding the benefits of both professional and personal development throughout our life does little if you cannot apply effective methods to become the best type of lifelong learner. The process involves attitude adjustments and the kind of effort we may not be accustomed to. In the face of sweeping and swift changes throughout global health industries, however, it gives you the best chance of remaining relevant.

How to Be a Lifelong Learner

Lifelong learners look for opportunities to expand their knowledge, skills and understanding. To support their development, they:

  • Possess curiosity and a growth mindset that invites future possibilities
  • Embrace challenges, change and critique on the way to learning goals
  • Accept that skill acquisition requires effort, that improvement is possible and that obstacles create new opportunities to learn
  • Seek out opportunities for their benefit and growth
  • Cultivate new opportunities by learning additional skills and techniques, paving the way for possibilities in the future
  • Step outside their comfort zone, including deepening existing skills to help with future tasks, enhancing existing skills to make current skills more efficient
  • Strive for genuine skill and knowledge growth that opens doors to new roles and responsibilities

Lifelong learners invent and reinvent themselves whenever they find (or create) the opportunity to do so. Lifelong learners analyse, synthesise, and apply what they’ve learned for the benefit of themselves and the society in which they live.

About the Author
Adele Suda is OTA’s Professional Practice Advisor for Learning and Development. Adele has been an occupational therapist for 28 years. She has worked as a clinician, educator and researcher. Her long standing career has seen her own and operate a private practice, lecture at Southern Cross University and serve on various committees. Adele has now joined OTA to develop the CPD program and online educational resources.

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