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

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, May 27, 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 Proficient nursing professional development specialist

Last week I discussed some ideas for nurturing Competent nursing professional development (NPD) specialists. This week, I'd like to spend some time talking about nurturing Proficients.
Using Benner's (1984) work as a foundation, I define Proficient NPD specialists as those who have at least five years of staff development experience. They perceive situations as wholes rather than as individual components and automatically incorporate evidence-based practice (EBP) in all their staff development duties. Proficients are able to serve as mentors and often assume the chair of committees and councils (Avillion, 2011).

Proficients (and Experts) are at great risk for burnout. They may often feel that there are no opportunities for advancement or for new challenges. Proficients may be in danger of becoming bored and need nurturing to discover new ways to grow professionally.

Some suggestions for nurturing Proficients include:

  • Offer opportunities to initiate formal research that focuses on staff development endeavors
  • Promote active membership in professional associations such as serving on committees or task forces and presenting at local and national conferences and conventions
  • Facilitate additional graduate level courses pertaining to staff development, adult education, and/or research
  • Serve as a mentor and/or help to develop mentorship programs
  • Facilitate publishing opportunities
  • Facilitate the assumption of leadership activities such as budget planning, recruitment and retention of NPD specialists, and long-range departmental planning

Retaining Proficients is important to staff development departments. They have the expertise to be invaluable members of the organization. They are also prone to burnout and need opportunities to grow and advance professionally.

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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