This essay focuses on such a concept as Continuous Professional Development and its importance for contemporary nursing practice. It should be noted that the modern world is marked by technological innovations, which have served to improve the form of care provided. In addition, treatment procedures are constantly being improved to cater to modern needs. Moreover, disease trends have been altered due to changes in the atmosphere. As a result of these changes, there is a need for the medical personnel including the nurses to undergo continuous training so as to remain at par with modern technology and current understanding of different diseases (Cherry and Jacob, 2005, p. 20). Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is a practice that is essential to enhance the career development of health care practitioners. Through this process, the patients are offered high-quality care throughout their experience with the health care services. CPD in nursing is the process by which members of the nursing profession uphold, improve and expand their knowledge on diseases and care and also their professional skills (Quinn, 1998, p. 3). Through this process, they are able to acquire personal qualities in handling their clients which are essential for their nursing professional lives. CPD in nursing enhances competence in handling patients and serves to reduce medical errors and thus increase patients’ satisfaction with the quality of care provided.
Modern scholars agree that continuous professional development (CPD) of lifelong learning is an indispensable element of nursing practice and that CPD is conducive to the improvement of medical services (Sines, Saunders & Forbes-Burford, 2008, p 143). CPD is believed to bring the following benefits to nursing practitioners: 1) ability to familiarize oneself with the most recent findings and developments in technology; 2) improvement of interpersonal skill, and 3) opportunity to acquire leadership roles (National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery, 2004, p 18). In part, the necessity for CPD can be explained by the fact that the role of nurses has transformed over recent years. These healthcare professionals are no longer regarded as someone who does only minor jobs; a contemporary nurse has to take initiative and make independent decisions about patient care (Malloch & Porter-O’Grady, 2006, p 242). However, in order to become more autonomous, a nurse has to acquire a great number of skills and competencies. More importantly, the standards of nursing competency continuously evolve, and nurses have to refresh or update their knowledge. This is why CPD is an inseparable part of their work.
It should be noted that scholars and healthcare professionals are not unanimous when defining CPD. According to the most common interpretation, it is “systematic maintenance, improvement, and broadening of knowledge and skills, and the development of personal qualities, necessary for the execution of professional and technical duties” (Hall, 2005, p 165). Judging from this definition, we can argue that CPD has to perform the following functions: to elaborate the job skills of the nurse and to provide him/her with an opportunity and stimulus for professional development. However, many medical workers focus mostly on professional skills rather than on personal qualities (Yfantis, Tiniakou &Yfanti 2010, p 198). Therefore, it is possible to say that there is some gap between the theoretical implementation of CPD and its practical implementation. The critical issue is to determine those skills and competencies, which need to be continuously elaborated. Very often, those people, who tailor and implement CPD programs for nurses, tend to focus only on the functional tasks, carried out by these healthcare professionals, for example, manual handling or drug administration (National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery. 2004. p 17). Such a technique can be called a functional approach to CDP. However, many scholars believe that such a functional approach limits the role of the nurses, who must be competent in many areas such as clinical research or counseling (Featherstone, Barbour, & Garner, 2007; Hall, 2005). Thus, we can assume that there is no universal model of CPD.
In this literature review, it is also necessary to provide evidence, indicating that continuous professional development actually improves nursing practices. Moreover, one has to determine how these improvements can be measured. Overall, the efficiency of a CPD program is very difficult to assess only by numerical means. As a rule, researchers have to pay attention to such criteria as the ratio of positive and negative patient outcomes, the degree of patient satisfaction, or nurses’ perception of CPD programs (Academy of Medical Royal Colleges 2006, p 87). Overall, scholars and healthcare professionals believe that CPD and improvement of nursing practices are associated with one another. More importantly, those hospitals, which use a wide range of educational techniques like, conference attendance, E-learning, podcasting, informal consultations, report better patient outcomes and higher degrees of patient satisfaction (Academy of Medical Royal Colleges 2006, p 26).
At this point, we need to show how continuous professional development can improve certain nursing practices. For instance, according to Meurier, Vincent, and Parmar (1997, p. 113), not much attention is given to the subject of medical errors that occur frequently in nursing practice. The professionals involved are much reluctant to either discuss the subject with their fellows or to make the issue undergo public scrutiny. However, this has been changed as a result of assessments on clinical and quality improvement services which constantly monitor the incidences under which the errors occur. These assessments have been vital in giving insights as to the events which led to the occurrence of such medical errors. Such knowledge has served to bring about changes and as a result a need for the nurses and other health practitioners to be constantly educated on such changes. Meurier, Vincent, and Parmar (1997) conducted research to determine how nurses could use the errors they committed to improve care for their patients. The majority of the nurses reported committing errors as a result of a lack of knowledge or minimal skills in handling certain cases which seemed difficult. In addition, they reported a lack of efficient communication with their seniors in the profession. It was concluded that errors in nursing practice could offer a chance for the learning process to take place. It is therefore important for nurses to accept responsibilities for medical errors committed under their care and use these chances to better improve their knowledge and skills (Winstanley and Woodall, 2000, p. 34). This would serve well in reducing the occurrence of such errors in the future and as a result enhance the quality of care provided. In addition, an enabling atmosphere is important to enhance learning rather than passing blames for the errors. This is an example of how CPD can improve nursing practices in medical institutions.
Continuous Professional Development has several components which should be incorporated in order to enhance the form of learning taking place. To begin with, it must have a purpose which it intends to achieve and also be motivating to the nurses. The purpose should include learning something current and that is new to the learners to avoid monotony. The delivery of the learning process must be motivating enough to encourage participation and concentration in the learning process. The process should have the capability to raise self-awareness on a particular issue. For example, by using a medical error committed by a particular nurse, he or she is able to concentrate in order to become aware of the procedures and hence gain the skills needed (American Nurses Association, 2000, p. 13).
The CPD process should be a result of evidence-based practice. In the contemporary nursing practice, Evidence-Based Practice has become symbolic to quality nursing care and thus efforts should be maintained to apply it in the learning process. To be effective in the nursing practice, CPD should enlighten the nurses and provide the basis for future research undertakings (Higgs and Jones, 2000, p. 57). This will lead to the development of the profession in providing quality and effective health care services to all consumers. The CPD process should place into consideration different learners considering those with specific specializations in nursing like pediatrics, mental health among others, and those who are general practice nurses. Other considerations include; nurses’ ability as a result of their educational level and what they have achieved in their years as nursing practitioners, the age and their levels of seniority in the nursing profession, that is, are they in their entry-level, established, or senior practitioners (Rogers, 2001, p. 40). The type of services rendered whether full-time or part-time and their commitment to the nursing practice should also be taken into consideration by the developers of CPD programs.
Effective leadership is also fundamental to ensure the effective implementation and advancement of any given plan. The success of CPD depends on the form of leadership that is prevailing in a given health institution. Nurse leaders should provide learning opportunities to their workforce, offer support and mentorship to their juniors and also ensure proper coordination of all services taking place in the health setting (Robinson and Robinson, 1993, p. 210). They should possess advanced skills in nursing practice, have proper organizational and managerial capabilities and also be motivators to offer encouragement to their juniors. This will put them in a better position to handle any upcoming events involving CPD.
Effective CPD programs should be developed using suitable criteria which is in a position to meet the kind of impact for which it was intended for. Some measures should be taken care of which includes the following; ensuring a learning process that is lifelong and that ensures continuing learning for the nurses at all times and that it enhances professional renewal and growth (Rawlings-Anderson and Cronin, 2003, p. 35). This will ensure the nurses are equipped with the latest information concerning offering quality care. The program should take into consideration the existing professional standards in nursing care. Different nations have different standards which must be met to qualify for the nursing profession. An efficient CPD program is able to bring this into focus and provide ways to create harmony between these standards (Chief Medical Office, 1998, para. 6).
CPD has become a good practice through agreements on the procedures to follow in various places around the world. Certain issues have been identified to form good practice in the clinical application of CPD. This includes CPD being composed of many professionals whose members are participative during the learning process. An effective CPD program is based on what nurses have encountered previously with their patients and supported through evaluation and formulation of strategic plans by the health institutions (Heiten-Haag and George, 2010, p. 57). Improvements have been done to CPD to ensure it becomes a good practice. These measures include; organizing for learning and training consortium throughout the year to members of different departments, making various changes to the curriculum for the undergraduate courses, and ensuring participation of all sectors involved. In addition to that, clinical audits have formed a major part of the learning process. This increases the skills that the learners have and translates to improved care for the patients.
In conclusion, due to the changing trends in the clinical field to attain the highest level of quality health care providers and increase patient satisfaction, CPD should be encouraged in all health care institutions. CPD in nursing is the process by which members of the nursing profession uphold, improve and expand their knowledge on diseases and care and also their professional skills. It is important for nurses to use the medical errors they encounter during practice as an opportunity to learn new skills (Atack and Luke, 2009, p. 30). Although many nurses are supportive of the CPD process it is important to have effective leadership to ensure that it is integrated into the strategic objectives of the health institutions. They should be encouraged to participate in the process by making it lively and awarding the participants either certificates or extra credit for their participation. By so doing new skills will be acquired and quality care will be provided in our health institutions.
Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. (2007) The Effectiveness of Continuing Professional Development. General Medical Council. Web.
American Nurses’ Association (2000) Scope and Standards of Practice for Nursing Professional Development. Michigan, American Nurses’ Association.
Atack, L. and Luke, R. (2009) Improving infection control competency through an online learning course. Nursing Times, 105 (4), 30-32.