HealthMay 20, 2020

Professional development: Three keys to support nurses' growth

The third week of Nurses Month focuses on professional development. Professional development in the nursing profession brings us up to date on the latest techniques, technology and evidence to be able to provide quality care to patients. It also fosters career advancement and leadership growth for nurses who wish to elevate responsibilities. While most people do want to further their education and participate in professional development, there are barriers to achieving this, causing a decrease in engagement to follow through with professional development.

As nurse leaders we are tasked with fostering the growth and education of nurses, but how can we engage nurses to want to participate in professional development? Some ways to engage professional development include motivational interviewing, elimination of barriers, and promotion of shared governance.

Motivational interviewing

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

Eliminate barriers to professional development

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 for leaders to support continuing education and professional development of nurses is to provide access to in-house continuing education opportunities. By bringing these to the nurse, convenience and flexibility will increase staff participation in these opportunities.

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.

Shared governance

Institutional awareness is another 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 staff to participate on both a unit and institutional level. Creating a work environment that supports shared governance will aid in supporting professional obligation and accountability, as well as empower professional development and growth of nurses (Clavelle et al, 2016).

Nurse leaders have the responsibility of providing the resources and support to promote professional development in their institution. Through motivational interviewing, elimination of professional development barriers, and encouragement of shared governance, a nurse leader can promote individual nurse professional development that will support health care growth and optimal patient outcomes.

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Bindon, S. L. (2017). Professional development strategies to enhance nurses' knowledge and maintain safe practice. AORN Journal, 106(2), 99-110.

Clavelle, J. T. et al. (2016). Evolution of structural empowerment: Moving from shared to professional governance. JONA, 46(6), 308-312.

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.

About the author

Mary Anne Bera, RN, MSN, Clinical Editor, Lippincott Solutions, is a nurse with over 17 years' experience in medical surgical nursing, including eight years of nurse leadership. She currently develops and edits clinical content for Lippincott Advisor.

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