Measuring Nurse Competency: How Does Practice-Based Learning & Improvement Help New Nurses?

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

This blog post, focused on Practice-Based Learning & Improvement, continues our series on measuring nursing competency.

No matter how well prepared a student nurse may be, the first weeks (even months) on the job are incredibly demanding. That’s because all the classroom time in the world can’t fully prepare a new nurse for the hectic pace and unexpected challenges real-life patient care throws their way.

That’s often led to frustration, burnout and an early departure for new nurses. And that loss is incalculable, not just for that nurse who now must pursue another career path, but also for the provider, who is losing a likely very talented employee and now must begin the onboarding process all over again. It’s more than just staff churn, too; patient care and outcomes suffer with a revolving door of nurses rather than the steady hand a consistent team of caregivers can provide.

The solution, not just for turnover but also for nurses’ ongoing professional development and a smoother overall operation, is to encourage and employ practice-based learning and improvement. This is where new nurses are eased into the facility’s care flow, monitored and mentored. In practice-based learning, clinicians investigate and evaluate their care of patients, appraise and assimilate scientific evidence, and then continuously improve the patient care provided based on constant self-evaluation and life-long learning.

The idea of practice-based learning and improvement for nurses is one of the six core measurements, along with clinical knowledge, patient care, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism and systems-based practice laid out by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education or ACGME. Long seen as a gold standard for assessing nurse competency, the ACGME standards lay out an actionable roadmap for facilities who wish to attract, retain and develop the best nursing workforce.

Assessing Practice-Based Learning Requires Customizable Tools

As with any other area of nurse competency, measurement is crucial. In order for a practice-based learning program to be properly vetted, its participants need to be regularly evaluated to see if the skills they arrived with have been enhanced. Conversely, deficiencies need to be identified quickly so that remedial learning can be put into place.

This requires an individualized approach. Cookie-cutter assessments won’t work, because each program participant is working with mentors differently, and each brings their own specific areas of expertise to the general practice of nursing. The goal is empowerment, and that’s best done through a program that provides consistent training that meets each learner where they are.

Deploying the right clinical development solutions aids nurses’ practice-based learning and improvement, as well as a crucial pillar of measuring nurse competency. Also consider creating a space that’s dedicated not just to learning, but for peer sharing and support. Combined, they create a wraparound space that gives new nurses the opportunity to learn all the aspects of their chosen profession while also making and strengthening professional relationships that will serve them well in the future.

Our blog series about measuring nurse competency was developed to bring attention to all the attributes that contribute to truly competent nursing. In addition to this post, others address:

  • Patient care
  • Medical clinical knowledge
  • Clinical knowledge
  • Systems-Based Practice
  • Interpersonal Communication

Ensure Competency of Nursing Staff at Every Level

In today’s value-based healthcare environment, it is more important than ever to be able to eliminate guesswork and develop a standard level of competency across the entire organization. Utilizing proven data to identify development needs is not just a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have. Learn more about HealthStream solutions for nurse competency management.

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