Sophie Winter: Lifelong learning on the move

“An opportunity for lifelong learning.”

This is a tagline commonly associated with a career in medicine. It is cited first by anxious students in their medical school interview, referenced frequently by tutors in medical education, and is an on-going mandatory component of revalidation. Good Medical Practice advises “keeping up to date” as one of the main domains in the duty of a doctor, and the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme ensures this can be monitored. [1] The General Medical Council states that CPD is “learning outside of training which supports the maintenance and improvement of performance.” [2] These activities may be external, internal and personal, of which personal study may account for 10% of the annual requirement. [3] 

Keeping up to date and personal study may conjure images of weekly journals posted through the door, periods spent in the library out of hours or scrolling through email newsletters at a desk. An inability to seamlessly combine these methods with other daily activities means you need to find (or make) time elsewhere. This can be challenging, especially when doctors already have a number of time-consuming responsibilities to carry out. Work or home-based duties, “life admin” and maintaining relationships may be obvious areas of your weekly time expenditure, but what about the time we spend getting to and from work? 

The annual commuting time for UK workers has increased by 18 hours compared to a decade ago, with the average commute both ways at 58.4 minutes. [4] 4.9 hours a week is a lengthy period to be spent travelling, and cries for a better way to utilise this “wasted time.” There appears to be a disparity between finding time to keep up to date with professional development and the unproductive hours spent commuting, but there may be a solution to this which has been growing for over a decade.

Podcasts have become increasingly popular in recent years, with 6.4 million UK adults now listening to a podcast in the average week. One quarter of these listeners do so while driving or travelling, and “education” is the second most listened to genre (succeeded only by “comedy”) [5,6]. These podcast enthusiasts have found a way to make their travel time more interesting and informative, which is something medical professionals could emulate. 

Podcasts remove the immobility that most studying requires. You can listen by simply pressing a button on whichever application you choose, and then (literally) let it do the talking. This supports a hands-free approach that can be utilised when doing tasks such as driving or housework. There are a variety of medical education series where the production team have combined information with the latest research and condensed this into the salient points. They have spent the time finding the latest evidence, so you don’t have to. Some series have a “topic per week” approach; discussing the aetiology and latest management of certain conditions. Some have a panel of specialists offering their opinions and insight on a medical subject. Others discuss the latest research in a certain field or highlight their ‘top picks’ of recent articles you should be reading. 

All the medical colleges and faculties have published specific guidance on how to carry out CPD in their specialty. [2] The Royal College of Anaesthetists, for example, allows 10% of the CPD credits required for revalidation to be from personal study, classed as internal CPD. For this, one hour of educational activity equates to one credit. It stipulates that these credits are awarded when the learning has been achieved and documented with a reflection in a CPD diary. [3]  It is therefore important to keep a reflective log of the episodes you have listened to, including what was covered and learnt from them, so this evidence can be used as part of revalidation.

Podcasts have opened up a new door for medical education, however they also may be regarded as a ‘Pandora’s box’. With no peer review, monitoring or regulation, it would be unwise to change your entire practice on one twenty-minute episode. They should be regarded as an adjunct to learning, to stimulate your interest and help you reflect on your approach by listening to the insights of others.

And if you find that educational podcasts aren’t for you, there’s always comedy.

Sophie Winter is a Foundation Year 2 doctor working in the West Midlands deanery. She was introduced to podcasts through friends, and now listens to them on her commute.

Competing interests: The author has no affiliations or conflicts of interest.


  1. General Medical Council. Good Medical Practice. Available from:—knowledge-skills-and-performance [Accessed 26th march 2019]
  2. General Medical Council. Continuing Professional Development. Available from: [Accessed 23rd March 2019]
  3. Royal College of Anaesthetists. Continuing Professional Development. Available from: [Accessed 23rd March 2019]
  4. Trades Union Congress. Annual commuting time is up 18 hours compared to a decade ago, finds TUC. Available from: [Accessed 23rd March 2019]
  5. RAJAR/IpsosMori. Measurement of Internet Delivered Audio Services 2018. Available from: [Accessed 23rd March 2019]
  6. R Winn. 2019 Podcast Stats & Facts (New Research From Mar 2019). 6th March 2019. Available from [Accessed 23rd March 2019].