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

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, April 20, 2012

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

The role of nursing professional development in the outpatient setting

We all know that outpatient care is rapidly becoming the norm for everything from medical issues such as diabetes to major surgery that once required lengthy hospital stays and is now performed on an outpatient basis. How have nursing professional development (NPD) specialists addressed the education needs of nurses working in outpatient settings? It is my belief that the NPD specialist has a significant role to play in outpatient care as both educator of nurses and of patients. Here are some education topics to consider as the role of the NPD specialist in the outpatient setting evolves.

  • Providing patient education when there is precious little time to do so. Nurses need help developing communication skills that must be implemented quickly, but yet also include time to assess patient/family understanding of patient care to be done following a surgical procedure, administration of a new medication regimen, etc.
  • Developing written patient education materials. These materials need to be written at a reading level appropriate for patients and in terms patients and families can understand. Such materials may also need to be prepared in a number of languages other than English.
  • Addressing the issue of burnout in a fast-paced setting. Nurses in outpatient settings are understandably concerned about delivering care and patient teaching in a setting that allows even less time than the inpatient setting. Helping nurses to develop coping skills is essential.
  • Legal aspects of outpatient care. The legalities of nursing practice remain the same, no matter the setting. Failure to document, failure to assess patient knowledge about home care prior to discharge from the outpatient setting, etc., must still be done in an ethical and legal manner. Nurses in outpatient settings need to recognize ethical and legal aspects of care and how to adhere to these standards in their own particular practice setting.

These are just a few ideas when considering the education needs of nurses who work in outpatient settings. Don't neglect these nurses. The time may soon come when NPD practice will also shift its emphasis from inpatient to outpatient.

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