From the desk of Adrianne Avillion, DEd, RN

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, January 22, 2010

Editor's note: Welcome to our new feature written by staff development expert Adrianne Avillion. Each week, Adrianne will write about an important issue in the profession of staff development or answer reader questions. If you have a question for Adrianne, e-mail her at

Q: Our hospital is having some financial difficulties and looking to cut costs. What can I do to protect my staff development department?

A: First, there is no way to absolutely protect your department. That is a difficult statement to make, but an accurate and realistic one. However, there are steps you can take to provide evidence that the activities of the staff development department positively effect the organization, and the most important step is that all your activities should be planned, implemented, evaluated, and revised based on objective evidence.

For example, your orientation program should be linked to retention rates. You should be able to produce data that shows the effect the program has. This means you need to know turnover rates, establish a preceptor program, and evaluate orientation based on objective evidence. Base your evidence on what you do best, which is educate.

I recently consulted with a large staff development department that consisted of enthusiastic, qualified educators who were facing departmental cuts. One of them told me that one of their most important roles was to schedule a large number of classrooms and set up the AV equipment for whoever was booking the rooms. She honestly thought that this activity would help to prevent job losses, and I had to point out that almost anyone can be trained to schedule classrooms and supply equipment. The organization did not need to pay master's prepared nurses to perform that task. What is essential is to gather evidence that shows the effect of staff development.

This is a complex question and its various aspects will continue to be addressed. It cannot be answered in a few paragraphs. The important thing to remember is that it is just as important to gather evidence regarding education as it is to gather evidence regarding any clinical procedure.

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