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Competency Days Help Ensure Nursing Knowledge

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, July 20, 2010

Hospitals with ANCC Magnet Recognition Program® (MRP) designation are always seeking better ways to educate their nurses to ensure quality outcomes. For many facilities, part of this education process comes in the form of competency days. And for some, such as Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, CT, these competency days turn out to be a raging success.

Saint Francis is in its third year of using competency days for nursing education, and, according to Erica Siddell, PhD, RN, director of nursing education and professional development in Saint Francis' Center for Nursing Education and Practice Innovation, most of the bugs have been worked out.

The competency days are hosted once per month. The sessions are about four hours long, and each session will see about 100 nurses pass through.

The competency days began when the nursing education structure at Saint Francis was evolving at the same time.

"It was a different organizational structure prior to 2005," says Marge Freeland-Wasel, APRN, ACNS-BC, a clinical nurse specialist at Saint Francis. "We were the Department of Nursing Clinical Excellence, composed of all nurse specialists, no nurse educators."

The nurse specialists had many roles, and one of them was nursing education. However, they were torn between these many roles.

"The clinical nurse specialists in a particular unit would say they were going to run some competency days for my units, but there was no mandate that 100% of the staff would get there, or remediation if they didn't attend," says Freeland-Wasel.

The other issue was time—the clinical specialists could only provide so much education when torn between several roles. And it wasn't just the clinical specialists who were short on time.

"Surgery did their own competency days, medicine did their own, critical care—they were run on the unit. Staff would come out and still be thinking about patient care during the education," says Freeland-Wasel. "They had to get back to patient care."

And if the nurses still had patients waiting in the wings for them, it was very difficult to make these education days educationally sound. But then the educational council took on the responsibility, and shared governance went live.

"The educational council and the education fair happened around the same time," says Lynn Morris, RN, MSN, nurse educator at Saint Francis. The initiative came out of the council.

"At the time, my mother was working in another hospital out of state and used to send me flyers if she thought they might be of interest," says Morris.

One of those flyers was for a full-day educational fair for all employees. The concept was different from what Saint Francis would eventually implement, but it sparked an idea.

"We decided we needed to do something away from the bedside," says Morris.

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