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What is a personal development plan?

Do you often feel overwhelmed with the number of topics that you need to cover for revision? Do you feel there are too many skills to learn but don’t know how to start tackling them? There is an easy way to overcome this and achieve your goals by developing a comprehensive personal development plan (PDP). It is a simple process that you can work through with different goals for each one, and it doesn’t necessarily need to take a long time to write the plan. I have outlined a simple method of writing your personal development plan and I would recommend creating a template so that you can use the same format each time.

Advantages of creating a PDP

  • Breaks down learning goals and assists in structuring how to work towards meeting the goals.

  • Demonstrates that you are working on your weaknesses (often identified in a SWOT analysis- see article here).

  • By writing down your targets you can get input from your supervisors/ peers on how you can work towards the goals. This includes revision resources and practical skills sessions that can be organised to assist you.

Structuring your PDP

  • Date and title the PDP (e.g. suturing skills for skin lacerations or developmental milestones in children).

  • Write a brief summary of the skill or revision topic and why you need to work on it.

  • Write specific action plans using the SMART mnemonic (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-orientated).

Reviewing your PDP

  • Document when the PDP action plan was completed and include any areas that were not completed with the reason why this was not possible.

  • If applicable, document any evidence to show completion of the PDP (e.g. e-learning module or course completion certificate).

  • Briefly reflect on what you have learned and how you can use the new knowledge and skills.

  • Identify any areas for future learning (if applicable).


The PDP is an effective tool to break down revision and works best when a specific topic is chosen rather than a broad one. At times it may not be possible to achieve all your goals due to lack of resources or opportunities but it is important to recognise this and seek assistance from supervisors. For example if you have not sutured enough lacerations to feel confident, you can show your supervisor your PDP and request help to achieve it.

An additional use of the PDP is for non-medical personal development such as a skill or hobby you would like to progress. It is a useful tool to break down any goal that you have into smaller, manageable steps.


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