Nursing: Which is More Important-Butts in Seats or Measurable Change?

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

By Gen Guanci, MEd, RN-BC, CCRN, Consultant, Creative Health Care Management

To all of my fellow professional development specialists out there: If someone asked you what your outcomes are this month, how would you answer?  

Numbers or Outcomes?

I pose this question frequently when I am consulting with hospital-based nursing education (nursing professional development, NPD) departments. The answers range from “I did orientation for 12 new RNs” to “I taught eight computerized documentation classes” to “I taught ACLS for 35 people” to “I rounded on my units every day and did in-the-moment education.”  

You may be thinking, yes, that sounds like my month, too, but these are activities, not outcomes.  Sure, what you did is important, but if nothing changed as a result of you doing orientation, or ACLS, or rounds, what value is that work? 

Is Training Leading to Better Care and Outcomes?

So many times NPD specialists and departments excel at doing classes, teaching concepts, and holding conversational rounds, but the transfer of learning to the workplace is absent.  Even if the class was wonderful, you were outstanding, and the participants told you so, when they went back to their units, was it the same old same old?  No behavior change = no outcomes. The primary reason for education is to learn something well enough that the learner can implement a new behavior, change current behavior, or strengthen it.

How you talk about your own effectiveness matters. Here’s why: Typically in times of financial constraints departments that are not seen as “value added” are looked at for reductions in force (RIFs).  By articulating how you contribute to the overall goals of the organization in language that talks directly about measurable outcomes you will now be viewed as “value added.” 

Reframing How We Talk About Training

Take orientation, for example. You could report that you did 12 orientations for 85 RNs in the past 6 months but this isn’t speaking to an outcome. However, if the results of your work are that you consistently conducted monthly orientations that led to the overall reduction in vacancy rates you can state the following (actual) outcome: “NPD contributed to the overall reduction in RN vacancy rate from 13.4% to 6.6% by conducting 12 orientation programs in the last 6 months.” Learning how to talk about your successes in ways that have meaning for the C-suite may make the difference between keeping your job and losing it. 

And by the way, don’t wait for someone to ask what your outcomes are. Be proactive and tell them. 

What outcomes are you measuring in your Education Department? And with whom will you be sharing them? 

As a consultant at Creative Health Care Management, Gen is focused on advancing nursing as a profession and nursing professional development. Whether it’s educating on Relationship-Based Care, helping education departments with structure and competency metrics, or guiding organizations as they establish a culture of excellence, including the journey to Magnet®designation, Gen sees the possibilities in all of her clients. Gen can be contacted at

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