Measuring Nurse Competency – Patient Care

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

This blog post, focused on nursing competency in patient care, continues our series about measuring nurse competency.

Nursing competency includes core abilities across a fairly broad spectrum—system-based practice, professionalism, medical and clinical knowledge, practice-based learning and improvement and interpersonal and communication skills. In addition, there is one core competency that is somewhat over-arching and central to the practice of nursing—patient care and more specifically, patient-centered care, also referred to as patient- and family-centered care. Patient-centered care embraces respect for patient and family preferences, values, and needs, as well as having an emphasis on wellness and patient education and a respect for cultural differences. Patient-centered care is particularly relevant in light of the increasing prevalence of cultural diversity in the United States. So, if we are to measure nursing competency specific to patient-centered care, what should we measure and where do we start?

Understanding Patient-Centered Care

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) defines patient-centered care as “providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.” The concept has grown in popularity as organizations like Planetree, the Picker Institute, and the Institute for Patient and Family-Centered Care have worked to establish the conceptual framework for patient and family-centered care.

While the concept is fairly well-understood at this point, organizations may still find that there are some barriers to building this model of care. As with any initiative, it is critical to have senior leaders who understand and support the principles. Having designated staff members to serve as ambassadors and educators is also important. Creating advisory boards that consist of patients and family members can provide the kind of feedback that helps nurses and other providers better understand what this type of care “looks like” from a patient or family member’s perspective. Education about the clinical and social outcomes of such a care model along with education on how to provide care within this framework is also essential.

This model can lead to better outcomes, improvements in the patient experience and higher provider satisfaction, but measuring nurse competency when delivering patient-centered care has been a bit more problematic.

Measuring Competency – Patient and Family-Centered Care

Elements of patient-centered care are almost always included in patient experience measures, but measuring nurse competency on this care model has been a bit more difficult. To ensure that organizations are providing patient-centered care, there are some key elements that should be considered as part of measurement efforts:

  • Respect for each person’s unique qualities, values, emotional needs, and life issues. Provider-centered care will typically miss the unique cultural differences in patients that can make a difference in successful treatment. A patient’s culture, health status, and family issues can impact outcomes.
  • Shared Power, along with shared responsibility, also characterizes patient-centered care. Ongoing communication with patients helps to ensure understanding of the disease and treatment options and the identification of common treatment goals.
  • Communication that is open and honest is essential to this patient care model. Do patients have unencumbered access to the information that is in their medical records? Is information being communicated in a way and in a language that the patient can understand and via channels that are optimal for them?
  • Wellness and Prevention should be addressed with education and treatments aimed at reducing risks, preventing health problems and maintaining health as well as improving patient’s access to needed healthcare services.
  • Pain management skills, including the ability to assess pain levels, provide education about pain management and develop a pain management plan that respects the patient’s personal preferences are another key component.

Building Competency Using Technology

While measurement has been somewhat of a challenge in this area, there are robust tools that can help leaders evaluate, improve and maintain competency in this area. HealthStream’s workforce development solution, jane™, uses AI to evaluate competency, create an individualized learning plan and focuses on the kinds of critical thinking that will help nurses provide optimal patient-centered care.

To learn more about how HealthStream can help you and your organization measure nursing core competencies, please click here:

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:

  • Systems-based practice
  • Medical clinical knowledge
  • Practice-based learning and improvement
  • Professionalism
  • 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.

PLEASE NOTE: The information in the article excerpted here was considered current at the time of its publishing. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-evolving disaster due to new findings, data, and availability of resources. Please refer to the CDC website for the latest detailed information when you need it.