Advance your professional development with a portfolio

Nurse Leader Insider, January 8, 2020

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Editor’s note: The following is an edited excerpt from Building Your Professional Portfolio: Essential Tools for Healthcare Providers. For more information or to order your copy, click here.

A portfolio is not a new concept or construct. A review of available literature offers varied resources on building portfolios for personal, academic, and professional purposes. Many of these resources offer similar recommendations, describing the value and applications of portfolios in multiple venues. All recognize the importance of portfolios for personal and professional development and advancement.

Portfolios are a visual way for us to look at all of the doors we have encountered in our lives and the many paths we have chosen—to celebrate the successes we have enjoyed, learn from our challenges, and enthusiastically anticipate whatever comes next. Each one is a collection of exemplars, artifacts, and other evidences organized in an electronic or hard-copy binder, for example, for a specific purpose or audience. Each person will build his or her portfolio based on its intended purpose, whether personal, academic, or professional advancement. Creating a master portfolio that can be adapted when needed can provide a foundation for extracting whatever artifacts are required for specifically targeted audiences (e.g., new hire or career advancement). They showcase one’s knowledge, skills, experiences, and accomplishments related to selected goals or objectives. Portfolios are NOT prescriptive; they are fluid and dynamic, providing past and present evidences (artifacts) demonstrating competence and competency related to experience, professional practices, processes, quality, and relationships.

Portfolios  are a strategic collection of narratives, exemplars, artifacts, and other evidences organized in a way that fits your needs, (for personal mastery and insight, to achieve academic credit or accreditation, or to demonstrate new-hire qualifications and levels of competency). Creating a master portfolio that can be adapted when needed provides a foundation for extracting whatever artifacts or evidences are required for specifically targeted audiences (potential employers, career advancement reviewers, regulatory agencies, or professional organizations).

The primary purpose of a Master portfolio is to document, categorize, and showcase your knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA); growth; and progress as an individual, as a student, and as a professional. This is especially critical for healthcare providers and students learning and working in increasingly complex communities of education and practice. Building your portfolio invites you to engage creatively throughout the process to do the following:

  • Establish a strategic record of personal, academic, and professional activities and accomplishments over time
  • Guide critical decisions related to your personal choices and volunteer activities, goals for education and training, and professional opportunities
  • Tangibly demonstrate learning and KSAs in specific areas of study and practice
  • Validate and improve competence through narratives that connect reflective practice to practice standards and advance relevant and purposeful competencies through continual professional development
  • Provide more detailed exemplars for performance-based interviews, applications for employment, scholarships, grants, bonuses, or promotions
  • Speak to specific qualifications required for various positions when entering academia or the workforce and for transitioning into new roles
  • Document required artifacts to illustrate portfolio-based competencies assessments for regulatory agencies, accreditations, performance appraisals or evaluations, or certifications (e.g., VA Nursing Professional Standards Board reviews, American Nurses Credentialing Center certification renewals, American Academy for Preceptor Advancement certifications for Preceptor Specialists)
  • Explore and map the quality, safety, and expansiveness of personal mastery, academic progress, and professional development (e.g., serving on various committees, projects and task force groups, and interprofessional collaborative teams, completing preceptorships and mentorships)
  • Guide academic and career planning (e.g., artifacts for progressive career ladders)
  • Reflect on personal growth and development acquired through study, work, and applications of knowledge to meeting personal goals and gaining wisdom (e.g., enhances critical thinking skills and abilities to safely engage in complex projects or activities)
  • Capture previous work and lived experiences, challenges met, and life lessons learned for academic or work credits
  • Communicate the highest level of personal mastery and professional preparation through multiple media (e.g., technology) and other artifacts


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