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The Importance of Nurse Competency Testing and On-Going Education

By Elease Caracci, Co-Founder, CFO, EVP of Nurse Competency

A guest blog from HealthStream Partner, NurseCompetency. 

It might surprise many to know that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has reported that one out of every 25 patients in US hospitals are said to have been harmed by medical care.  This stunning statistic accentuates the need to develop a clinical staff that is providing optimal care at all times.  

In order to reduce risk and ensure optimal patient outcomes, it is important to be able to assess a clinician's skills, abilities, and knowledge, as well as to help remediate and increase competency in areas that may show deficiencies.  Developing a well-rounded and capable workforce requires a diverse array of methods, and clinical competency testing can be an important tool to help assess and develop the necessary level of competency of hospital clinical staff.

Protect Patients AND Staff

In addition to evaluating clinical competency, most organizations see tremendous value in providing their staff with educational materials that help reduce the risk of on the job injury and increase compliance with outside organizations such as OSHA and TJC. 

According to OSHA, healthcare workers have one of the highest rates of work related injuries.  These injuries can take many forms such as exposure to blood and air-borne pathogens, musculoskeletal lifting injuries, and needle stick injuries.  Developing tools to educate employees about issues that affect workplace safety and compliance with industry standards, is recognized as a necessary part of staff development and risk management. 

Most hospital organizations understand the need for both testing and on-going education and many opt to develop these materials in-house.  However, this can be a costly, labor-intensive process that may not always be managed in a way that will ensure both valid and reliable results. 

Questions to Ask About Your Testing

It is important for hospitals to evaluate their current programs and ask themselves if there might not be a better way to manage their current process for measuring employee competency.  In order to help assess the efficacy of current methods, hospital educators might ask themselves the following questions:

  • What processes do you use now to measure a clinical employee's technical competency?
  • Could clinical competency tests help with employee development?  Could this development lead to greater patient outcomes and safer patient care?
  • Are your clinical education staff developing competency testing materials?  How often are these materials updated?  Are they current and clinically relevant?
  • Could your educators' time be better used in other ways?
  • Are you able to collect and analyze data on tests to see how your staff performs against national averages?
  • Is your organization meeting regulatory mandates; empowering your employees with the knowledge and skills they need to ensure delivery of safe, quality care and services?
  • Might education and training reduce your workers’ compensation liability (e.g., back injuries, needle sticks, etc.)?

Employee assessment and education tools can be an integral part of achieving a goal-oriented program for improvement and quality assurance if managed in a way that ensures both valid and reliable results.  However, achieving this may not be an easy task.  Because hospital educators are entrusted with a multitude of tasks most find it difficult to implement a steady, on-going process to create new materials, evaluate, revise, and validate this content.  Difficult or not, ensuring a quality workforce is more important now than ever and having a solid process in place for assessing and improving employee performance can mitigate liability and improve the overall quality of patient care.

The NurseCompetency-HealthStream Partnership

NurseCompetency is proud to announce our new partnership with HealthStream,which will become the exclusive distributor of our competency exams and skills checklists to hospitals and health networks in the U.S.  Over half of all U.S. hospitals trust HealthStream to provide them with innovative solutions for the acute-care market, and we are very excited to have been selected as a partner of choice for web-based competency testing.

The key to NurseCompetency’s success has been our dedication to providing our customers with valid and reliable tests and our commitment to the expansion and development of our test library.  To date, we offer over 70 different clinical and non-clinical tests, as well as 25 different industry-compliant education topics to ensure compliance with outside organizations such as OSHA and the Joint Commission.  By mid 2013, we will have added an additional 20 new clinical tests to our library, making ours one of the most extensive in the marketplace today. 

In addition, we offer our customers the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the materials they are using are reviewed and updated annually and have undergone a rigorous 6-step validation process to ensure statistical reliability as well as compliance with EEOC UGESP guidelines.

The Advantages of Using NurseCompetency Assessments

Together, HealthStream and NurseCompetency offer acute care organizations several distinct advantages when choosing a competency testing program:  

  • A competitive pricing model
  • Robust library of healthcare specific content
  • Our commitment to providing current, valid an reliable content
  • Effortless implementation.  NurseCompetency will be seamlessly integrated into the existing HealthStream platform that customers are already very familiar with, making the prospect of adding on this new program very easy-- with minimal additional training required for implementation
  • Assists with industry compliance
  • Allows for quick initial and on-going assessment of employee's clinical knowledge
  • Aids in risk management  and employee development
  • Customers can rely on the excellent customer support that they have come to expect from HealthStream

We are confident that HealthStream customers will find the NurseCompetency Exam Library to be a value-added workforce management tool that is both cost-effective and results oriented.

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