Nurse assessing competency for quality care

Importance of assessing competency throughout your professional journey

May 18, 2023
May 18, 2023

Nurses are expected to care for people in the safest, most efficient way possible. To provide high-quality care, nurses must be competent in many skill sets. They must not only maintain their skills but also attain new skills because of changes in healthcare. Regular assessments are one way to be sure of a nurse’s competency. 

The constant change in healthcare

Healthcare leaders are faced with having to consistently ensure safe and competent care. By its nature, healthcare is constantly changing and evolving. Through research and technological advances, healthcare has become what it is today. Change in healthcare will not stop. New equipment, processes, medications, and diseases will continue to emerge, requiring new skills from nurses.

The focus of healthcare has shifted. Healthcare has become a value-based system. It now looks at the whole person instead of just a condition. Caring for a single person is no longer central; community health is moving to the forefront of healthcare.

It is with these changes that nurses must grow, too. The skills needed to perform their job successfully have changed in concert with the changes in healthcare. The recent changes in healthcare were not likely to have been taught when today’s nurses were in school. These are skills that nurses must attain during their careers and be confident in their competency.

Continuous Nursing Competency

Nursing competency has many definitions. It can be seen as a combination of nursing skills, knowledge, critical thinking, beliefs, and attitudes. Nursing relies upon autonomy and self-regulation. According to the American Nurses Association, it is the nurse’s responsibility to maintain their competency. Thus, nurses should assess their competency throughout their careers.

Nurses must ensure they maintain competence as they progress throughout their careers. At the start of their career, nurses know they are competent in basic skills because they have passed an exam to receive their license. However, with the advent of new technology, processes, and illnesses, more than these basic skills is needed for nurses to care for patients successfully.

Nurses perform many roles, such as patient advocate, nurse leader, researcher, care provider, safety manager, and teacher. The nurse is expected to be competent in whatever role is being performed. This includes staying abreast of changes impacting each role.

For nurses to properly care for and ensure the safety of patients and communities, they must be competent. Nurses can meet these expectations by continuously assessing their competence. The outcomes of the care nurses provide are directly related to the nurses’ competency.

Continuous self-evaluation of nursing competencies can pinpoint areas that need improvement. Identifying areas of need will help to create a plan to improve and attain deficient competencies. It can also help identify staff education needs. Maintaining continuous competency evaluation may also impact the longevity of a nurse’s career and decrease turnover.

Ways to maintain competency

When nurses identify there is a lack of competency, it is their responsibility to attain competency in that area. Nurses have many options available to them to improve and maintain their competency. These options include:

  • Classes offered by employers
  • Attain a certificate in a nursing specialty
  • Attain a higher level of nursing degree
  • Join a professional organization
  • Attend conferences
  • Watch webinars
  • Maintain CEUs required for licensure
  • Network
  • Knowledge gained on-the-job
  • Read nursing publications

Nurses need to be self-aware. Self-reflection may help draw awareness to areas needing improvement. Reflecting on a particular event or even a section of their career can assist in assessing their level of competency.

Nurses have competency in basic nursing skills when they first enter their career, and it generally continues to improve with time. But with the constant change in healthcare, nurses must acknowledge when they are not competent to ensure they can provide the high quality of care needed in the current healthcare environment.

Though employers and governing bodies can require nurses to participate in continuing education, it does not guarantee that nurses have all the competencies needed to perform their job. Nurses should practice a regular process for evaluating their competency to ensure patient and community safety and outcomes. A better way to guarantee competency is to continuously self-evaluate.

1 Allvin, R., Bisholt, B., Blomberg, K., Bååth, C., & Wangensteen, S. (2020). Self-assessed competence and need for further training among registered nurses in somatic hospital wards in Sweden: A cross-sectional survey. BMC Nursing, 19(1), 74.
2Fukada M. (2018). Nursing competency: Definition, structure and development. Yonago acta medica, 61(1), 1–7.
3 Gartley, C. E. (2016, July 15). Maintaining clinical competency is your responsibility. American Nurse.
Kavanagh, J. M., & Szweda, C. (2017). A crisis in competency: The strategic and ethical imperative to assessing new graduate nurses’ clinical reasoning. Nursing Education Perspectives, 38(2), 57–62.
5 Sasaki, S., Fukada, M., Okuda, R., & Fujihara, Y. (2019). Impact of organization and career commitment on clinical nursing competency. Yonago acta medica, 62(2), 221–231.