From the desk of Adrianne E. Avillion, DEd, RN

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, February 25, 2011

Editor's note: This feature is written by nursing staff development expert Adrianne E. Avillion, DEd, RN. Each week, Adrianne writes about an important issue in the area of staff development or answers reader questions. If you have a question for Adrianne, e-mail her at

Orienting new staff development professionals

When orienting new members of your department, there are some department-specific elements of nursing professional development (NPD) orientation that apply to all orientees, regardless of their level of expertise.

  • Identify a preceptor. Everyone needs a preceptor, including the expert NPD specialist. The preceptor's major responsibility is to facilitate successful completion of orientation and initial assimilation into the organization.
  • Determine appropriate competencies and qualifiers. These are determined by new employees' level of expertise. In order to design a truly individualized, competency-based orientation, you must align competencies and qualifiers with employees' levels of expertise.
  • Determine initial responsibilities. You don't automatically have to assign new employees the same responsibilities as the people they are replacing. Use every vacancy as an opportunity for more effective distribution of workloads, better departmental functioning, and occasions for facilitating the growth and development of all members of the staff development department.
  • Identify appropriate resources. Use resources for perusal such as journal articles, reading the Nursing Professional Development Scope & Standards of Practice, relevant departmental policies and procedures, etc.
  • Explain potential political pitfalls. Failure to understand the politics of an organization has led to more than one disastrous experience for new employees. Take the time to explain the culture and political workings of your organization to new employees.
  • Identify people who have significant impact on new employees' roles. Staff development personnel are often introduced to managers, administrators, key clinical leaders, etc. But what about the person who maintains and services the AV equipment? Don't forget the people behind the scenes who can make the NPD specialist's job easier or more difficult.
  • Provide information about obtaining a mentor. Research shows that retention is linked to mentorship opportunities.
  • Provide information about joining professional associations. Professional associations are excellent resources when it comes to mentors, education, and professional growth opportunities.

Resource: Avillion, A.E. (2011). Professional Growth in Staff Development. Strategies for New and Experienced Educators. Danvers, MA: HCPro.

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