As ANA president, I have the privilege of representing RNs, the nursing profession, and the ANA in many local, state, regional, national, and international settings. Those responsibilities have turned me into a “road warrior” who spends many hours reading to stay current and to prepare for presentations on nursing practice and policy issues.
I’m pleased that nurses continue to be the most trusted group of professionals in national surveys year after year—and I’m proud to represent you. Obviously we are doing lots of things right to garner such scores. From my perspective, high trust translates to nurses having a reputation with the public as competent professionals who provide safe, high-quality care in every practice setting. That means even nurses like me, who don’t “touch” patients directly every day, must still maintain competence.
Carrying out ANA’s role as the professional organization for all nurses, ANA’s Congress on Nursing Practice and Economics recently completed the position statement “Professional Role Competence,” which addresses the public’s right to expect RNs to demonstrate professional competence throughout their careers. Although RNs are individually responsible and accountable for keeping their skills and knowledge current, “it takes a village” to ensure the systems and resources are in place to support their efforts.
Nurses who demonstrate competence are performing successfully at an expected level of performance that integrates knowledge, skills, abilities, and judgment. They obtain this competence by participating in formal, informal, and reflective learning experiences. Each of our pre-licensure nursing education programs and faculty have identified knowledge, skills, and abilities that nursing students must master before graduation. Faculty members also are expected to meet competency standards. For details, see The Essentials of Baccalaureate Education for Professional Nursing Practice (published in 2008 by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing) and Nurse Educator Competencies: Creating an Evidence-based Practice for Nurse Educators (published by the National League for Nursing in 2007).
To measure professional competence for entry into nursing practice, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing maintains and administers the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses as a proxy. The regulatory agencies, nursing profession, professional organizations, credentialing and certification entities, employers, and other key stakeholders share responsibility for creating environments that help ensure nurses remain competent professionals.
With the increased emphasis on evidence-based practice, employers also are expected to provide an environment conducive to competent practice. That means providing a practice environment where professional development opportunities and readily available expert nursing resources are integrated into nursing practice.
As healthcare employers focus on quality and gain public recognition for excellence, metrics related to the number of employees (including nurses) who have earned specialty certification have become more important. Because potential employers want the most competent applicants as employees, they commonly view professional certification as evidence of demonstrated competence and as a way to justify choosing one candidate over another.
Professional certification usually requires evidence of additional professional development, educational preparation, and defined work experiences. It’s important to be an astute certification consumer and verify that the program has been duly accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies or the American Board of Nursing. This is also critical when seeking certification as well as the advanced practice registered nurse designation.
ANA’s Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements (2001), available at http://nursingworld.org/ethics/code/protected_nwcoe813.htm, and Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (2004) identify the responsibility of each nurse to strive for continual professional growth that requires a commitment to lifelong learning. By regularly assessing your own knowledge, skills, and abilities, you can identify areas you need to learn more about or become more current in to help maintain your competence.
Take the time to examine the competencies identified by your nursing specialty organization as you plan your next educational and work experience. Thank you for being a competent nurse!
Rebecca M. Patton, MSN, RN, CNOR
American Nurses Association