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12-08-2020 | Show and Tell Open Access

Redesigning continuing professional development: Harnessing design thinking to go from needs assessment to mandate

Perspectives on Medical Education
Alexander Chorley, Khalid Azzam, Teresa M. Chan
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s40037-020-00604-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



The world of medicine is constantly changing, and with it the continuing professional development (CPD) needs of physicians. As the CPD landscape is shifting away from unidirectional delivery of knowledge through live large group learning (conferences) and is placing increased emphasis on new approaches for skills training not taught a decade ago, a new approach is needed.


Using design thinking techniques, we hosted a full-day retreat for emergency medicine stakeholders in Hamilton and the surrounding region. Prior to the retreat we collected medico-legal data on emergency physicians in our region and performed a needs assessment survey. At the retreat, we had participants brainstorm ideas for CPD, generate archetypes for end-users, then generate solutions to the problems they had identified. These proposals were presented to the larger group for feedback and refinement.


The Design Thinking Retreat generated five main pillars for action by our CPD team. 1) Simulation/procedural learning (staff simulation, procedural skills day, in situ simulation); 2) Asynchronous learning (website and podcast); 3) Synchronous learning (small group sessions for staff); 4) Community connectivity (online platform for collaboration and communication); and 5) Coaching & mentorship (focused coaching for specific practice improvement, improved onboarding for new staff).


These ideas have vastly increased engagement in CPD. Stakeholder consultation via design thinking may be a key approach for educators to use.
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