What the ANA's New Professional Development Scope and Standards Mean for Nursing Staff

The Staff Educator , December 15, 2009

In March 2008, a task force was formed to review and revise the American Nurses Association's (ANA) Professional Development Scope and Standards of Practice. This document establishes the range of practice and the principles by which nursing staff development professionals conduct our professional lives.

It is no easy task to revise such an important document. Why undertake such a critical venture? To begin with, says task force member Dora Bradley, PhD, RN-BC, vice president of nursing professional development at Baylor Health Care System in Dallas, "it has been 10 years since the last version was created. There have been so many changes in healthcare as well as our profession, so we must look at the Scope and Standards in terms of how our roles have evolved." Bradley notes that, for example, technology was not even addressed in the most recent Scope and Standards.

"The new version of the Scope and Standards must also consider the fact that the continuing education target audience is now worldwide," she says. "We must think in terms of a globalization concept and how education needs can be assessed across the world. Simulation and virtual reality must also be incorporated as these teaching modalities grow in scope and importance. I remember someone saying that 98% of the change in the world has occurred in the last 100 years, and 90% of that change has occurred in the last 10."

The task force started by conducting an intensive literature review of training and continuing education in and out of the healthcare arena. The ANA mandated that the group create something "that would represent not only current practice, but a future trajectory to guide practice for the next five years," says Bradley. "We must create a 30,000-ft. view because our specialty has so many different arms where we practice, our roles, and practice setting, etc."

The task force identified specific future trends to be addressed. These include (Bradley et al., 2009):

  • Increased use of technology
  • Global target audience
  • Teaching/learning modalities
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Increased accountability
  • Increased interdisciplinary involvement
  • Fiscal management
  • Need for complex implementation expertise
  • Professional development metrics
  • Decreasing time to achieve competency
  • Generational differences, including the emerging adult (Tanner, Arnett, and Leis, 2009)
  • Escalating competing priorities
  • Knowledge management and succession planning
  • Increased need for clinical affiliations and academic partnerships
  • Move toward learning as an investment in human capital
  • Cost avoidance versus expenditure
  • Focus on transition into practice

Bradley says the "influence of the work environment became very apparent, which was not addressed in previous editions. Learning and practice environments have tremendous influence on how much of this role [as identified in the Scope and Standards] can be operationalized by the individual specialist. For example, a one-person staff development department can't do orientation, continuing education, research, etc., not when there is only one person doing everything. We must be respectful of the practitioner's practice environment."

There was a significant struggle as the task force altered the practice model. The former model was a triangle with three intersecting circles (continuing education, staff development, and academic education), which appeared to reflect the professional development aspects of the nurse.

The proposed new model is a systems model focusing on the practice of nursing professional development (NPD). The system includes inputs (environment, learner, NPD specialist), system throughputs (evidence-based practice, practice-based evidence, orientation, competency program, inservice education, continuing education, career development, research-systematic inquiry, scholarship, academic partnerships, pole of NPD specialist), and system outputs (outcomes, change, learning, professional role competence and growth). Note that academic education is now addressed via partnerships. Nurses in academia have their own set of competencies and a certification model separate from the Professional Development Scope and Standards. The proposed model is also more fluid, documenting inputs, throughputs, and outputs (Bradley et al., 2009).

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