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Never Stop Improving: The Importance of Nurse Competency

By Kathy Mercer, Director of Clinical Education, NurseCompetency 

A recent report stated that patients often judge the quality of nursing care in a facility as being at the skill level of the least experienced and competent nurse. Take a moment to let that statement soak in, and think of the nurse on your unit to whom this applies. Is that nurse a brand new graduate? A nurse who graduated long ago and swore never to study again? Might this nurse be one who takes every possible opportunity to learn and grow, soaking up new education like a thirsty sponge and demonstrating excellent patient care?

Who is Your Least Competent Nurse?

If you found yourself cringing at the thought that nursing skill on your entire unit is perceived by patients as being equal to the nurse who is least competent, it is time once again to work with your nurses and improve their general competency level. It has become a matter of great urgency that nurses take a look at nursing care through the eyes of their patients and resolve never to stop improving.

Are Your Nurses Prepared to Provide the Best Possible Care?

Becoming a patient, even in the best of circumstances, can be a scary experience. If harm (or even a close call) results from healthcare workers charged with the responsibility of providing optimal care, being a patient can become not only scary, but dangerous. No true nurse wants to harm patients, but it is certain that if nurses do not keep up with the many changes in healthcare and the evidence base supporting these changes, they may be the unwitting providers of harm, rather than help.

In addition to the wide variety of specialty areas found in nursing, there are basic areas of healthcare in which nurses need to be competent. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has identified a list of patient safety strategies including hand hygiene, measures to reduce septicemia associated with central lines, interventions to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia, the do-not-use list of hazardous abbreviations, as well as other strategies. The staff educator or clinical nurse specialist stands guard on busy nursing units, both teaching and demonstrating the standard of care that is expected of the nurses who work there.

Put the “Care” Back in Healthcare

The public should be able to expect that when they, their family, or friends encounter nurses in healthcare settings, they will be given high quality care and will not be harmed by negligence. Let it be your primary goal to spark interest in the career development of nurses for whom you are responsible, and in that way, become both a resource for the nurses and a public guardian. Together with your staff, put the “care” back in healthcare. Your patients deserve nothing less.

 

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