Effect of Continuing Professional Development on Health Professionals' Performance and Patient Outcomes: A Scoping Review of Knowledge Syntheses

Anita Samuel*, Ronald M. Cervero, Steven J. Durning, Lauren A. Maggio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Purpose Continuing professional development (CPD) programs, which aim to enhance health professionals' practice and improve patient outcomes, are offered to practitioners across the spectrum of health professions through both formal and informal learning activities. Various knowledge syntheses (or reviews) have attempted to summarize the CPD literature; however, these have primarily focused on continuing medical education or formal learning activities. Through this scoping review, the authors seek to answer the question, What is the current landscape of knowledge syntheses focused on the impact of CPD on health professionals' performance, defined as behavior change and/or patient outcomes? Method In September 2019, the authors searched PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, Scopus, ERIC, and PsycINFO for knowledge syntheses published between 2008 and 2019 that focused on independently practicing health professionals and reported outcomes at Kirkpatrick's level 3 and/or 4. Results Of the 7,157 citations retrieved from databases, 63 satisfied the inclusion criteria. Of these 63 syntheses, 38 (60%) included multicomponent approaches, and 29 (46%) incorporated eLearning interventions - either standalone or in combination with other interventions. While a majority of syntheses (n = 42 [67%]) reported outcomes affecting health care practitioners' behavior change and/or patient outcomes, most of the findings reported at Kirkpatrick level 4 were not statistically significant. Ten of the syntheses (16%) mentioned the cost of interventions though this was not their primary focus. Conclusions Across health professions, CPD is an umbrella term incorporating formal and informal approaches in a multicomponent approach. eLearning is increasing in popularity but remains an emerging technology. Several of the knowledge syntheses highlighted concerns regarding both the financial and human costs of CPD offerings, and such costs are being increasingly addressed in the CPD literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)913-923
Number of pages11
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


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