We will point you in the right direction for online professional development activities from the top providers to suit all budgets, including free courses. Whether you are a student or already qualified nurse or midwife, there is something here for everyone. About Matt Farrah - follow me on Google+

In these times when competition for nursing and midwifery jobs is strong, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd of applications that an employer will receive for each job. Professional development is one area on your CV you can regularly improve upon by taking courses and increasing your knowledge base. Professional development is highly prized among employers looking for experienced candidates, but it can also be a way for you as a third year student or recently qualified professional to gain that little bit extra recognition for your skills.

I would strongly recommend that your professional development / CPD activities is one of the first items on your CV. It immediately adds authenticity to your CV and highlights the skills you've achieved that are relevant to the job you're applying for.

This article will direct you to the top 5 online learning resources, which you can access for free or for a range of different costs from a few pounds to a full university level fee. All of the courses shown below are delivered online and can be studied in your own time. Unfortunately online training is one area targeted by internet spammers, so before you pay for a service you must satisfy yourself that the organisation is credible and the learning material offered will be of real benefit to you. The training providers featured in this article are offering bonafide courses that will contribute to your CPD.

Charles Bloe Training

Charles Bloe Training are a well known training provider who provide both on and offline education for healthcare professionals, and the RCN are among some of the key sponsors of their courses.

The courses offered range from free to £40.00 per unit, and all are presented through a fully interactive online teaching area that is very simply to use and visually engaging. The demo modules you can access before you pay any money show the course material presented in a series of slides that are narrated and often presented with an illustration or animation to give a clearer explanation of that learning point.

The list of courses offered is regularly updated, and the website shows that there are 4 new modules coming up in the future including “Pulse Oximetry” and “Coronary Heart Disease”.

For a full list of courses available at Charles Bloe Training, click here.

The Open University in partnership with the RCN

The RCN have partnered with the Open University to offer a range of courses that can be taken as individual modules or can be used to work towards a degree qualification, either at undergraduate or postgraduate level. The subject areas include Leadership, Public Health, Older People and Child Health, and credit from previous higher education can be taken into account when working out the amount of credit you need to achieve for a particular qualification.

There are also a range of professional skills modules and postgraduate qualifications in a range of healthcare subject areas. CPD modules cover areas such as Death and Dying, Challenging Ideas in Mental Health and Managing Care as well as a host of other specialist areas at a range of different levels. There are 10 point short courses at level 1 right through to 60 point courses at level 3, each of which can be taken as a stand-alone module rather than part of a larger qualification if you choose.

The Open University offer excellent quality resources, and while this is one of the most expensive of the CPD options we’ve detailed in this article, the experience is second to none. Not only will you receive the course material in a variety of different media, you also have individual time with your personal tutor and access to the OU student forum so you can chat with other people on your course in the same intake as you.

RCN members and staff receive 10% of a range of OU courses, there is also financial support available directly from the OU that you may be eligible to apply for.

For an online leaflet about the courses available, click here.

The British Heart Foundation and Coventry University

The British Heart Foundation are working with several universities across the country to provide professional development courses at postgraduate level in a range of subject areas related to diagnosis, care and treatment of patients with heart problems. Coventry University have two of these courses on offer for study online.

Congential Cardiothoracic Care PGCert

Coventry University

1 Year duration, delivered entirely online

Contemporary Health Care (Congential Cardiothoracic Care) MSc

Coventry University

Flexible duration, delivered online

Fees will apply for each course, and will be set by Coventry University so you should contact them to find out more information.

The British Medical Journal

You will need to register with BMJ Learning in order access the course material, but once you do you will see a huge range of modules that may be of interest to you, many of which are offered free of charge. The site says that there are around 100 free modules, and the rest require a subscription to BMJ in order to access them. Free modules include:

Cancer and genetics: an up to date guide

Chronic oedema and lymphoedema

Confidentiality: an up to date guide

Heart failure and care of patients after a myocardial infarction

Introduction to change management

Palliative Care in the Community

The child born small for gestational age

While there are courses in the free list that may not be specifically relevant for a nurse or midwife, there is definitely plenty of benefit for you for no charge. The modules are delivered entirely online and can be accessed through your account area when you register. They seem to be of excellent quality and contain a variety of media including videos. You can also read reviews of each course on the course details page to help you decide if the course is for you.

For more information and to see the full list of modules available, click here.