Continuous Professional Development in Nursing
In the current healthcare environment, it has become increasingly important for nursing practitioners to maintain optimal performance at all times. The expectations, needs and requirements of clients are dynamic and complex. Besides having the essential skills, knowledge, and expertise in their fields of specification, nursing professionals require to keep improving their competencies. As health related ideas, values, and systems continue to be revised and broadened, professional development is imperative for nursing practitioners because it helps them understand expectations and align their practice in the same. According to Clark, continuous professional development encompasses various educational activities that aim at maintaining, broadening, and improving the level of competencies, degree of knowledge and expertise of nurses as well as developing crucial individual and professional qualities that are essential for helping them execute their duties with ease (Clark 340). It is a complex concept that entails an active review of the current practice, identification of the learning needs of the professionals, planning for the most effective and productive intervention measures, active involvement in the relevant learning activities, and continuous reflection on the significance of the activities on the holistic wellbeing of the individual.
Continuous professional development is imperative because it enables nurses to keep up with the changes that occur in their field and provide quality healthcare services to the customers and community (Walsh 85). By improving the skills, knowledge, and competencies of the professionals, it ensures that they have relevant capabilities that can enable them perform effective in the dynamic work environment. With these skills, nursing professionals are able to contribute meaningfully to their teams and avoid conflicts that emanate from inefficiency (Yam 570). In addition to being effective at the workplace, continuous professional development enables nurses to advance their careers and assume positions that allow them to exercise coaching, leadership, and managerial skills. Ultimately, they play critical roles as educators and mentors at the work place (Wood 127).
Continuous Professional Development in Nursing
During the execution of their duties, nursing professionals encounter various opportunities that they explore to enhance their skills and competencies. Together with other stakeholders, they can take deliberate measures to improve their skills, competencies, and knowledge. In their review, Burton and Ormrod indicated that academic detailing is one of the methodologies that practitioners can explore to access educational information and improve their performances (Burton and Ormrod 53). In most instances, this initiative is organized by the health institutions and educational facilities. Nursing professionals with more knowledge and experience on particular aspects visit the professionals in the respective hospitals to discuss these pertinent issues. For example, pharmacists visit nursing institutions and hold discussions or talks with them pertaining to prescription of medicines. This knowledge enables nurses to be more effective in making and administering prescriptions to patients. Besides preventing minimizing mistakes, nurses are able to ensure quality service delivery at all times. Fundamentally, academic detailing ensures that professionals access and benefit from information regarding specific aspects of nursing practice (Nolan, Owen, Curran and Venables 458).
Orientation programs are instrumental for helping nurses to transition well from learning environments to work place settings. In most instances, they are provided by healthcare institutions and equip nursing students with the knowledge and skills that they require to perform well in workplace environments (Gallagher 467). In addition to helping the students to apply theoretical knowledge to actual practice, orientation programs expose the student nurses to the challenges that characterize the hospital environment. Professional nurses guide the students and provide them with relevant knowledge with regard to effective ways that they can deal with the challenges. This is important because it ensures that by the time the students assume professional positions, they understand, appreciate, and are able to deal with the problems accordingly. Through such experiences students acquire relevant knowledge pertaining to nursing practice too (Kirwan and Adams 451). For instance, they are taught how to communicate vital information to the patients. Educating patients enables them to exercise self-care and make objective decisions with respect to prevention, management, and treatment of diseases. Arguably, this cannot be attained if nursing students are not exposed to orientation programs. Research evidence ascertains that incompetence such as poor communication skills contribute significantly to workplace stress and staff turnover (Phillips, Piza and Ingham 387).
Also, online learning training packages provide a viable alternative for nurses to enhance their skills and competencies. In these platforms, nurses access a wealth of information pertaining to quality healthcare. Diverse educational materials including publications relating to nursing practice, written guidelines and recommendations, and important information about quality nursing care are presented online (Ellis and Nolan 99). In order to have a greater impact, this information is presented in a graphically appealing manner. In this respect, it is worth noting that information that is unsolicited for usually has minimal effects on nurse professionals. Improving its appeal through graphical representation goes a long way in enhancing the interests of the target group. This information equips nurses with knowledge pertaining to professional trends. It prevents them from contravening important legal provisions and encourages them to uphold ethical conduct. Undoubtedly, these are important aspects of quality performance and enhance the productivity of nurses in different ways.
Further, attending educational workshops, conferences, and seminars is beneficial to nursing practitioners in different ways. Usually, the forums are organized by professional bodies and other stakeholders in the field of nursing. Participants have a chance to learn important aspects of the nursing profession through the information of presenters (Gray, Rowe and Barnes 863). These range from the industry trends to emergent social, ethical, and legal considerations that have direct implications on professional performance. In addition, the settings allow for networking that broadens the social boundaries of nurses. Ideally, these meetings are attended by professionals and stakeholders from different fields of specification. Through the relationships that are established, nurses share important information related to patient care and professional practice. In addition, characteristic discussions allow nursing professionals to convey important ideas and make invaluable contributions towards improving their professional practice. The settings encourage knowledge sharing and generation including immediate feedback and clarification to wide ranging concerns (Quinn 63). Most importantly, seminars and conferences enable nursing professionals to access diverse educational resources from different sources. Referring to these materials during the execution of their duties enables them to avoid making mistakes and exercise professionalism at all times.
During nursing practice, use of reminders, checklists, and protocols goes a long way in improving the competencies and quality of healthcare service that the professionals provide (Drey, Gould and Allan 748). These may be printed on paper or generated electronically by computers. They provide vital information pertaining to management, treatment, or diagnosis during nursing care. They are imperative for informing nurses about important procedures and encourage timely provision of care. In this respect, it is worth acknowledging that the nursing profession is burdensome and thus, simple reminders are important for enhancing quality performance. From a psychological point of view, research evidence indicates that use of checklists and frequent review of protocols encourages assumption of positive behaviors (Doel and Shardlow 76).
Active participation in patient mediated strategies has a positive impact on the quality of nursing care as well as nursing competencies. Essentially, this entails informing patients about important information relating to health promotion, management of diseases and health complications, treatment of certain types of diseases, and prevention of infections (Alsop 86). This information is empowering because it enables patients to assume positive tendencies and practices. In addition, it helps them to change their attitudes and perceptions towards health promotion. Positive health promotion tendencies improve the quality of health care that nurses provide. Patient mediated strategies constitute various activities including media campaigns or direct reminders (Tame 484). Of great significance to nursing professionals is when respective messages are incorporated in conventional nursing education. Besides benefiting the patients, such messages improve the knowledge of professionals on important nursing aspects.
Another important way through which nursing professionals ensure continued professional education includes representation in committees. Coupled with making presentation to workmates, Rutter indicates that this is an important way of expanding knowledge and developing nursing skills and competencies (Rutter 61). In order to make credible presentations about specific topics, nurses undertake in depth research. This gives them a deeper understanding of the respective subject. Besides enhancing their understanding in nursing care, research gives them an opportunity to develop critical thinking and analytical skills. These are imperative life skills that enhance their decision making and problem resolution capabilities (Kemp and Baker 542). Furthermore, making presentations improves their communication skills that have direct impacts on their delivery of quality healthcare. Using these, they are able to interpret patient information accurately and respond to the same effectively.
Due to the sensitive nature of healthcare provision, nursing practitioners need to exercise professionalism at all times. This requires continued enhancement of skills, knowledge, and expertise. At the national level, important regulatory bodies take practical steps to ensure continued improvement of nursing practice and provision of quality services. To begin with, the Department of Health recommends that nurses undertake examinations periodically in order to assess their skills and knowledge (Pool, Poell, and Cate 36). Before they sit for the examinations, nurses are compelled to undertake research and review their knowledge regarding different aspects of healthcare. To a great extent, this improves their knowledge and informs them about important trends in the industry. In addition, the Health Department requires nurses to pursue continued education and uses this as a condition prior to licensure renewal (Adami and Kiger 79). To address related controversies, the American Nurses Association defined what entailed continued education and designed programs and sessions for the professionals. Relative to this, nurses are supposed to have a certain level of education and demonstrate essential skills and competencies prior to licensure.
In most American states, professional boards have been given the legal mandate to come up with pilot projects that seek to assess continuing competency. However, Henwood and Flinton argue that a significant percentage of them have been unable to enforce the policy due to limited resources (Henwood and Flinton 180). Also, certain states require hospitals to demonstrate competency healthcare provision in order for them to be allocated specialized units. The role of educational institutions in enhancing continued development of competencies cannot be overstated. In this respect, they reevaluate the concept of competence develop and ensure its incorporation in training and education (Friedman 70). Then, they take measures to reflect on the programs, assess their significance, and identify strengths and weaknesses. Using feedback and open communication, they address the needs of learners accordingly. Finally, they liaise with employers in determining institutional characteristics that foster professional practice. Educational institutions pursue these strategies through nursing internship or orientation to training programs (Hegney, Tuckett, Parker and Robert 143).
In an effort to ensure quality performance at all times, all states use certification (Hegney et al. 144). In this respect, relevant bodies ensure that their examinations are reflective of continuing competence. A comparative analysis of pre-certification and post certification performance indicates that certified nurses demonstrate higher competencies and understanding of professional practice than their uncertified counterparts. Further, according to the requirements of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, all health institutions should assume the responsibility of assessing the competency levels of their staffs prior to and after employment (Turnock and Mulholland 112). The assessments should be undertaken regularly and demonstrate continued development of employee competencies.
Just like national provisions, international requirements to continued professional development require all governments at all levels to ensure nurses acquire relevant skills and knowledge before engaging in the healthcare provision. Besides assessing their competencies before entry in the professionals, international standards require relevant stakeholders such as hospitals to provide the nurses with opportunities for continued professional growth and development. In addition, they require the professionals to maintain personal journals detailing continuing professional development (Weglick, Julie and Rivers 228). Besides assisting them during personal reflection, they enable them remain accountable with respect to improving their competencies.
Challenges Facing Continued Professional Development
At this point, it is certain that continued professional development benefits both the nursing practitioner and the institution that the professional works for. Regardless of this recognition, industry analyses indicate that not all nurses have a chance to pursue continued professional development. This is attributable to various factors that are institutions, situational and/or personal. Research evidence indicates that lack of timely notification regarding in-service educational events hinders nurses from participating actively in them (Onyango 46). As indicated earlier, nursing profession is demanding and requires the practitioners to be on duty most of the time. Coupled by the fact that the profession faces shortage of professionals, it becomes difficult for all members to participate in educational events.
Also, lack of financial resources prevents nurses from undertaking professional courses to improve their competencies (Ainsley and Karen 133). In this respect, it is worth noting that in most instances, nurses fund for their professional development courses. Lack of sufficient resources prevents them from pursuing such courses especially when they have various commitments. Also, family commitments prevent nurses from participating in important initiatives geared towards improving their competencies. Research evidence shows that nurses who participate in such events tend to be single or have children older than five years (Workman and Bennet 76). Arguably, those with younger children have more family commitments and do not take up full time jobs. Likewise, this decreases their ability to seize and benefit from opportunities for continued professional development.
Also, certain nursing practitioners lack the motivation to participate actively in continued professional development. Reportedly, a certain percentage of nurses find it difficult to cope with the academic facet that relates to professional development (Govranos and Newton 657). Such nurses consider themselves too old to pursue additional education or understand the implications of the same to nursing practice. In this respect, they find the concepts to complex and comprehend and apply to their professional practice. Relative to this, technological illiteracy prevents nurses from benefiting from information that is presented online (Govranos and Newton 658).
Addressing the preceding challenges requires close collaboration between all relevant stakeholders. It would be imperative for the government, in conjunction with institutions providing health services, to provide alternative funding options for nurses who wish to pursue continued professional development. Institutions of higher learning can intervene by providing scholarships for exemplary nursing professionals who lack finances to pursue education (Gould, Drey and Berridge 604). Then, health institutions should employ sufficient staffs to give nurses a chance to participate in educational events such as conferences, seminars, and workshops. Besides enhancing their professional performances, these forums equip them with skills that are essential for boosting individual and organizational performance (Friedman 82). Also, relevant stakeholders should consider modifying the current structure of continuing education to ensure that it is accommodative of the unique needs of nursing practitioners. Besides simplifying the content, the modes of delivery should be flexible to ensure that nurses with family commitments get a chance to attend and benefit from the initiatives.
The dynamic nature of professional development requires nurses to maintain high level competence at all times. Continued professional development denotes a constant improvement of skills, experiences, knowledge, and expertise of nursing professionals. This is important in enabling them provide quality healthcare and improve individual as well as organizational performance. It helps them to keep up with complex changes in their field of specification and contributes positively to their career progression. Continuous professional development assumes various forms that are both formal and informal. Besides participating in seminars, forums, and conferences, professionals attain this important education by implementing patient mediated techniques, undertaking formal education, accessing educational details online, engaging in committees, and undertaking researches about various aspects of nursing practice. Use of protocols, reminders, and checklists also improves the quality of service as well as employee competencies. What is more, orientation training programs equip nurses with relevant skills and competencies to execute duties efficiently.
At both the national and international levels, various policies and regulations have been instituted to support continuous professional development. In addition to certification, regulatory bodies administer examinations to test the competencies of professionals and make improvements accordingly. In addition, learning institutions play a leading role in ensuring that all professionals acquire relevant skills, knowledge, and key competencies to perform their responsibilities effectively. Hospitals and other health institutions monitor the performance of their staffs and are responsible for providing opportunities for continued professional development. The challenges that relate to continuous professional development are personal, situational, and or institutional. Practitioners lack sufficient resources including finances and time to engage in professional development. Others lack the motivation to participate in professional development initiatives such as education while a certain percentage of do not have essential abilities like technological knowledge. Together with other stakeholders, governments at all levels face the challenge to addressing these concerns.
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