Measuring Nurse Competency: What Is Clinical Knowledge in Nursing?

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

This blog post, focused on clinical knowledge in nursing, continues our series on measuring nursing competency.

Healthcare providers know that measurements provide in-the-moment data that leads to more successful patient outcomes. On the other side of the treatment team, measurements also are helpful in ascertaining how well providers are performing. When discussing how to measure nurse competency, it’s essential to look at the components that make up that process.

For instance, what does clinical knowledge in nursing encompass? This is one of the six core measurements, along with patient care, practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism and systems-based practice laid out by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education or ACGME. While targeted to physicians, the ACGME standards are a useful template for nurses and other clinicians as well.

This is where many providers fail, because they don’t have any mechanisms in place to get a “moment in time” assessment of where their nursing corps are in terms of skillsets and experience. To foster success and have a better handle on clinical knowledge, a provider should look into these areas:

  • How are new nurses being trained?
  • What core competencies are expected of them, and do they arrive with those well-formed?
  • If not, is there a mentoring program in place to help onboard them with a longer runway, so they can find success?
  • And how can that be measured in a way that ascertains the strengths and areas for improvement for each learner more accurately?

Take an Individualized Approach to Clinical Knowledge in Nursing

According to Academic Medicine, “Clinical knowledge entails information about relations of particular signs and symptoms with specific diseases.” A clinician’s expertise in this area is developed over time through patient encounters, where his or her “knowledge base is revised and extended continuously, resulting in efficient and adequate clinical reasoning.” In addition to patient care, nurses must also be aware of roles and responsibilities across the entire care team. To best assess all of this, healthcare organizations should have customizable assessments and corresponding learning on tap for nurses. Those tools should be available to nurses online and in such a way that they can study at their own pace, followed by testing designed to assess each performer vs. comparing them to the entire nursing cohort.

Pursuing learning customized to individual learners in mind yields many immediate benefits. First and foremost, deficiencies are identified and can be targeted with remedial learning that doesn’t put the learner “in time out” or on the spot. And those who are fully proficient can be moved into higher levels or new areas of professional attainment vs.  having to wait for peers to catch up.

There’s no time to waste. The combination of a nationwide nursing shortage, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the transition to outcomes-based reimbursement mean that skilled nurses are in higher demand than ever. A well thought out training and continuing education strategy will ensure a team that has the clinical knowledge needed to meet and exceed the challenges set before them.

Having the right clinical development solutions is essential. Equally vital is targeted areas and spaces for nurses to not only train, but also to align with peers and explore areas of career development. That will lead to increased job satisfaction, and the retention of highly skilled nurses whose clinical knowledge creates efficiencies while improving patient outcomes.

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
  • Professionalism
  • Practice-based learning and improvement
  • 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.