HealthAugust 29, 2022

Professional development: Five strategies to support nurses’ growth

By: Mary Anne Bera, RN, MSN
Supporting the professional development of nurses keeps everyone up to date on the latest techniques, technology and evidence used to provide quality care to patients. It also fosters career advancement and leadership growth for nurses who wish to elevate responsibilities.

As nurse leaders we are tasked with fostering the growth and education of nurses, but how can we overcome the barriers that prevent nurses from participating in professional development? Below are some of the ways I found most effective as a nurse leader.

1. Motivational interviewing

Motivational interviewing involves sitting down with the nurse to identify motivations and needs, and then coming up with a realistic strategy to meet identified goals (Niesen et al, 2018). It is important during the interview to be collaborative and use active listening to ensure the nurse's thoughts are adequately expressed. Being nonjudgmental during this one on one time also enables nurses to honestly express their individual goals, interests and education needs to you. You may be surprised to discover that what you thought was an adequate professional development plan for your staff might not apply or be realistic to each individual nurse. Motivational interviewing also builds trust between you and the nurse, and gives nurses a feeling of autonomy in their own professional development (Niesen et al, 2018).

2. Bring education to the nurses

Common barriers to professional development of nurses include the cost to the individual for continuing education, inability to have scheduled time off to provide education, and childcare or home requirements of individuals (Bindon, 2017).

One way we as leaders can support continuing education and professional development of nurses is to provide access to in-house continuing education opportunities. When I used to arrange these for staff, I was pleasantly surprised over the years at how many interdisciplinary teams were willing to do in-services to nursing staff about hot topics. Initiate a coverage system so that nurses can safely hand-off assignments and attend. The convenience and flexibility of education at work can increase staff participation and engagement, as well as interprofessional relationships within your organization.

Professional development is not only found in classrooms and lecture halls, but online as well. There are many organizations, such as the CDC, that provide free webinars on a multitude of subjects designed to enhance education and provide current guidelines. These webinars can be attended at home and are convenient to nurses who cannot travel for a live class outside of work hours. You’d be surprised at how many nurses aren’t aware of what they can access and learn online at their own pace. Create an educational bulletin board in the breakroom with online learning opportunities to raise awareness to nurses of a resource that is underutilized.

3. Encourage shared governance

Institutional awareness is an important aspect of professional development. Shared governance enables and supports a professional practice environment for nurses that supports engagement, role development, nursing ownership of practice, a positive practice environment and professional development (Clavelle et al, 2016). Encourage and enable staff to participate on both a unit and institutional level. For example, if there is a hospital level infection prevention meeting at the same time every month, encourage your unit-based infection prevention committee nurses to schedule themselves to work that day so they can attend or offer education hours for staff to come in and attend hospital level meetings. This will help you create professional obligation and accountability, as well as empower professional development and growth of nurses (Clavelle et al, 2016).

4. Promote self-care

Nurses that have a good work-life balance are better nurses. Burnout creates a threat to patient safety, nurse engagement, and turnover (Montgomery, 2022), and can sabotage the professional growth of your staff. Make sure nurses are getting adequate time off and are leaving their shift on time. Encourage PTO use when it’s available and try not to call nurses at home for things that can wait until they come in for their shift.

5. Create a mentorship program

Mentorship is a relationship between two people, with one person having more experience than the other. An effective mentorship relationship can retain staff, further develop experienced nurses, and aid in succession planning (Dirks, 2021). After a new nurse is properly onboarded to the unit, why does the relationship with the preceptor have to end? Turn it into a mentoring relationship. This relationship allows the new nurse or mentee to have one on one time with an experienced nurse to discuss things such as career goals, work stressors and how to overcome them, and time management. This type of relationship has a positive impact on staff resilience and can boost engagement and retention of nurses (Dirks, 2021).

Nurse leaders have the responsibility of providing resources and support needed by nurses to promote professional development. Some ways to achieve this are through motivational interviewing, bringing education to nurses, encouraging shared governance, promoting self-care, and creating a mentorship program. How do you foster professional growth as a nurse leader in your organization?

Learn About Lippincott Solutions
Mary Anne Bera, RN, MSN
Clinical Editor, Lippincott Solutions, Wolters Kluwer Health
Mary Anne has over 18 years’ experience in medical-surgical nursing, including eight years of nurse leadership. She currently develops and edits clinical content for Lippincott Advisor.
  1. Bindon, S. L. (2017). Professional development strategies to enhance nurses' knowledge and maintain safe practice. AORN Journal, 106(2), 99-110.
  2. Clavelle, J. T. et al. (2016). Evolution of structural empowerment: Moving from shared to professional governance. JONA, 46(6), 308-312.
  3. Dirks, J. L. (2021). Alternative approaches to mentoring. Critical Care Nurse, 41(1), e9-e16.
  4. Montgomery, A. P. et al. (2022). Nurse burnout syndrome and work environment impact patient safety grade. Journal of Nursing Care and Quality, 37(1), 87-93.
  5. Niesen, C. R. et al. (2018). Use of motivational interviewing by nurse leaders: Coaching for performance, development, and career goal setting. The Health Care Manager, 37(2), 183-192.
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