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Developing services must mean developing nurses' skills

Marilyn Eveleigh
Consultant Editor

Every nurse should have a Professional Development Plan (PDP) that captures gaps in knowledge and plans for service or career development over the coming year.  Agenda for Change and the new GMS Contract make reference to this as part of clinical governance. The NMC stipulates continual professional development as a requirement of three-yearly registration to practice - nurses are charged with interpreting, selecting and recording this in a Professional Portfolio or Record. This Portfolio can be required for inspection at any time by the NMC to monitor adherence to this professional responsibility. This is not to increase pressure on nurses but rather to protect patients through sound nursing standards.
As a profession we have conflicting views about learning. We know we need it, and often crave it, but real life gets in the way. Employers are responsible for ensuring the workforce has the skills to deliver safe and effective patient care, but in releasing staff to enable them to develop those skills, patient services can be compromised. I have known delegates not turn up to, or even be called away from, a training event to man the workplace. The planning, the opportunity, the investment and the fee - all wasted on account of the overwhelming demands of safe patient services.
Ironically, the evaluation of a nursing study module at a local university identified that places had been taken by delegates who had actually been sent by their managers. These were reluctant learners, not the best candidates to absorb new knowledge, and it blocked the opportunity for others who were motivated. I wonder whether the manager thought they (and the service) were in real need of this academic study or just determined that the department's educational allocation be used? Then again, there are delegates who are more than happy to be away from the workplace, regardless of the content or need of the training event!
There is still a widely held assumption that education can only be considered "proper learning'' if a specialist imparts knowledge and information to learners attending a course. This is misguided and not in the interest of adult learners or patient services. We learn all the time, and in many different ways. We watch experts, we listen to specialists, we read what opinion leaders consider best practice, we absorb and apply what patients tell us. We must use these mechanisms more and ensure learning can be accessed by all and with minimal disruption to the service.
Fundamental to all learning is the application and consolidation of new knowledge in the workplace. After each learning session, nurses would be wise to record the details in their Portfolio and later revisit what had changed in their practice since acquiring the new knowledge. Reflective practice is key to the nursing role, and it offers considerable insight to plan further development.
While I'm on the subject of learning opportunities - you would be wise not to miss out on the NiP Events in London on 8-9 September and Birmingham on 23 November this year. Not only are they absolutely FREE, packed with great opinion leaders and practical workshops, but they are a great chance to meet other nurses and see new products exhibited. See page 13 for more details. Reserve your place now and avoid disappointment. Book the time out from practice as part of your PDP - and be sure to record the new skills and insights you gain in your Portfolio. See you there!