Competency is Essential Throughout Every Healthcare Organization

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

By Melissa Wurm, MHA, LSW; Director, Performance Excellence; HealthStream Engagement Institute

What are Competencies?

Competencies ensure the right people at the right level of your organization are equipped to achieve optimal performance outcomes. Successful competencies align with the organizational goals and individual performance evaluations, and are used to build a coaching culture.

The American Hospital Association tells us that competencies are the combination of knowledge, skills, personal characteristics, and individual and social behaviors needed for an individual to perform a job. This is a change from healthcare’s previous understanding of competencies as skill-based evaluations. The distinction is that a skills assessment can be validated in one or a few instances of the employee’s performing the task (consider a checklist), while a competency assessment is validated over time and in a variety of situations and methods.

Let’s examine the successful components of a competency assessment: 

From the table above, you can see the true depth of assessing competency in your staff and the value of building an optimal competency program that supports the development of individuals and teams.

Competencies in Healthcare

Competencies are by no means new to healthcare. Our nursing colleagues have been using competencies to rate skill performance for many years. A growing trend in healthcare is to develop competencies across the organization, ensuring that each person, in every position, is competent in their role. Can you imagine it? Let’s consider another industry to prove our point. Imagine in the airline industry, that only the pilot and co-pilot have competencies to ensure they are capable of successfully performing their roles. The others have job descriptions, but not competencies. That would include the flight attendants, maintenance personal, ticketing, security, etc. Did that make you nervous?

What would having an entire organization of competent employees (everyone who wears a name badge) do for you? Imagine every employee equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and judgments to help their departments achieve their goals. Now imagine them all working together to achieve the goals of the organization—patient experience, growth, patient safety, and quality of care. Competency builds confidence, and competent, confident employees are your keys to success.

Competencies and Employee Engagement

We know that engaged employees are happy employees, and happy employees provide the best patient care and services. One of the greatest aspects of employee engagement is feeling an attachment to the mission and goals of the organization. Do each of your employees know how the work they do every day contributes to organizational goals? When competency statements are directly aligned with those goals, every employee can know how they contribute and engagement is strong.

Competencies are used to develop a coaching culture in your organization. Assessing competencies allows you to identify your high performers for mentors and preceptors and also to identify development opportunities for each of your staff. It’s not a one-time assessment that’s put in a folder until the next year. Staff development through competency assessments happens all year long in order to build the coaching culture you desire.


Competencies are the exact levers you need to have engaged, confident employees and an aligned organization. It is the trend in healthcare to have competencies for everyone who wears a name badge. Are you ready?

Learn more about HealthStream Competency Solutions.