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

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, May 20, 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

Nurturing the Competent nursing professional development specialist

Sometimes we're so busy nurturing others that we forget about ourselves. This is especially true when it comes to nursing professional development (NPD) specialists who have a number of years of staff development experience. Colleagues who are new to the specialty have, arguably, more obvious learning needs such as program planning and evaluation. For the next few weeks I would like to make some suggestions for nurturing the professional growth and development of experienced NPD specialists, starting with the Competent.

Using Benner's (1984) work as a foundation, I define the Competent NPD specialist as one who has worked in the same job or worked in similar situations for two to three years and can independently carry out basic needs assessment and plan and implement continuing education programs (Avillion, 2011).

Competents need help in program evaluation skills, particularly at the results and return on investment levels. They are not yet independent in translating these kinds of evaluation data into evidence, which is so crucial to evidence-based practice (EBP) in staff development. They need to pursue learning opportunities related to the correlation of evidence to positive changes in job performance and patient outcomes. They also need guidance to implement EBP in all of their professional activities.

Competents should be encouraged to earn professional development certification and to join professional associations that focus on staff development. They should seek out and work with mentors from either within the organization or through professional associations. Mentors are essential to help Competents make the transition to Proficient practitioners.

Competents should be groomed in the art of publishing and presenting at educational conferences and conventions. These are ways of promoting not only the organization but also the Competent practitioners. Everyone deserves some individual recognition.

Competents are at a critical turning point in their careers. They need to see that there are new opportunities to explore as they pursue the transition to Proficient. Competents need to really see the link between what they do and organizational outcomes. This will not only help them to grow professionally, but will increase job satisfaction and decrease the risk that they will burnout and look elsewhere for employment.

Avillion, A. E. (2011). Professional Growth in Staff Development: Strategies for New and Experienced Educators. Danvers, MA: HCPro.
Benner, P. (1984). From Novice to Expert: Excellence and Power in Clinical Nursing Practice. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

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