Nursing

Tips from BESD: Performance gap or knowledge deficit? Investigate before you educate

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, November 19, 2010

By Barbara Mayer, RN-BC, MS, PhD(c)

Staff development specialist (SDS) time is a valuable yet scarce commodity, so we must identify appropriate use of this valuable resource. For example, imagine a nurse manager comes into your office and says, "Mary Lou just doesn't get it. She makes mistakes, doesn't seem to know much about medication administration, and when I talk to her about it she gets really defensive. You need to provide some education for her." Is Mary Lou's performance issue really about lack of skills or knowledge? Or could it be something else entirely?

SDSs are often asked to provide education when nurse managers identify individuals or groups of employees who are not meeting performance expectations. Although lack of skill or knowledge can be the cause of underperformance, there are other causes that should be considered.

Don't most nurses want to do a great job? Of course! So if they're not doing a great job, they must need more education, right? Not necessarily. Education is often the go-to tool in management's toolbox, and when performance does not improve, SDSs are asked to provide more education. This cycle can continue if we don't step back and really look at the cause of the performance gap.

Editor's note: Subscribers to Briefings on Evidence-Based Staff Development can read the rest of this article in the November 2010 issue.

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