The Value of Nursing Professional Development
HealthJune 23, 2017

The value of Nursing Professional Development

Nursing Professional Development (NPD) Practitioners offer new nurses and clinicians a wealth of knowledge and clinical expertise.

Nursing Professional Development (NPD) specialists—or practitioners—support nurses in evidence-based practice and quality improvement through professional development. It's a good idea, especially if you're a newer nurse, to get to know your NPD practitioner well.

These experienced educators help new nurses and those engaged in lifelong learning to develop and maintain their competencies, advance their professional nursing practice, and facilitate their achievement of academic and practice career goals. They work in a variety of practice settings and care environments.

NPDS practice specialty

The Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD) is the thought and practice leader for nursing professional development and advances quality healthcare by defining and promoting nursing professional development practice.

According to their definition, NPD specialists facilitate evidence-based practice by bringing nursing research to the point of care. They translate, integrate, and evaluate research through practice, education, and discussion with staff. If you have a clinical practice question, your NPDS becomes one of your most valuable resources. The NPDS is there to help you improve your patient care outcomes and add to the body of nursing knowledge as you generate questions about better ways to care for your patients.

NPD Certification eligibility criteria includes the following:

  • Must hold a current, active RN license within a state or territory of the United States or the professional, legally recognized equivalent in another country.
  • Must hold a bachelor’s or higher degree in nursing.
  • Have practiced the equivalent of two years full-time as a registered nurse.
  • Have a minimum of 4,000 hours of clinical practice in nursing professional development within the last 5 years.
  • Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in nursing professional development within the last 3 years

An investment in the future

Does your facility employ an NPD specialist? In the current complex healthcare environment in which organizations are dealing with reimbursement challenges, NPD practitioners must increasingly demonstrate that the time and resources dedicated to educational activities are worth the impact they have on outcomes.

Measuring return on investment guides the administration's decisions on the amount of resources (people, supplies, time) used for professional development activities by showing their financial impact. NPD practitioners are often the first to be called when a problem arises, and the first to experience reductions when the budgets are tight.

What is the return on investment for the time and resources spent for professional development? Although orientation, staff competence assessment, and educational response to critical events are essential, resources are often limited for educational activities. Sometimes, the team planning and providing the learning activities is restricted because of staffing, equipment, or supplies. Other times, the staff needing the learning activity is unable to leave the work area. Thus demonstrates the busy schedule of nurses.

Using the seven steps for the evidence-based practice change process as a framework, one study recently published in the Journal for Nurses in Professional Development evaluated best practices for ROI measurement for professional development activities as found in the literature today.  These seven steps include

  1. Clinical inquiry
  2. Population–intervention–comparison–outcome (PICO) question
  3. Search for evidence
  4. Critical appraisal of evidence
  5. Integration into practice
  6. Evaluation of outcomes
  7. Dissemination of results

For the purposes of this discussion, the terms learning activities and continuing education of staff are used interchangeably to represent what has traditionally been called “in-service” and “continuing education.” These terms explicitly defined as different in the past are now generally accepted as ongoing development and education of staff.

Using the seven-step process, only 11 of 69 studies found included an analysis of financial impact of professional development activities. Furthermore, the reporting of financial impact was inconsistent and, in some cases, incomplete.

Therefore, NPD practitioners must proactively demonstrate the value and financial impact of professional development to the organization to demonstrate their value. Four methods for evaluating the financial impact of educational activities were reviewed, including cost analysis,benefit/cost ratio, cost-effectiveness analysis, and ROI.

Researchers and NPD practitioners reporting on educational program evaluations must regularly calculate financial impact when disseminating and publishing results. This evidence is used to guide decisions for limited resources and to better position NPD as integral in the decision-making process in healthcare organizations.

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