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Updating your knowledge and skills

Donna Davenport looks at some of the ways in which nurses can keep up-to-date with current research, policy and evidence related to clinical and professional practice

Chatting to a group of nurses recently made me aware that many of us have anxieties about keeping up-to-date and abreast of current research, policy and evidence-based practice related to our clinical and professional practice.

With the advent of information technology it can be overwhelming to feel you are expected to know everything. When embarking on a programme of study or training nurses can often feel inundated by the amount of information, and struggle to make sense of what is important and what isn't, particularly where time limitations and assessment guidelines can be restrictive. The same can be said of clinical practice.

How do nurses do their job experiencing increased workload and staff shortages, while adhering to their NMC Code of Professional Practice (2008)?1 The code says you must:

  • Provide a high standard of practice and care at all times.
  • Keep your skills and knowledge up to date.

Care must be based on the best available evidence and best practice. As a nurse you are expected to have appropriate skills and knowledge for safe, effective practice, and recognise and work within professional boundaries and levels of competency. This can be a challenge, given the current financial climate in the public sector and NHS reorganisation.

The worldwide web has provided access to a plethora of information, and NHS organisations are using this to varying degrees - but there is still a wealth of untapped information out there. A good starting point for you, of course, is Nursing in Practice (NIP), which provides a free journal and this website, covering the most current issues (clinical and professional) in primary care. Make sure your colleagues know about it too!

Other key resources include the Chief Nursing Officer and GP/practice team bulletins, which you can register for via the Department of Health website, and which provide up-to-the-minute important information about the latest developments related to health and social care: available at

Embarking on study in higher education can provide you with the skills and knowledge related to your area of practice, as well as in academic writing and critical analysis so that you can learn how to read and critique the literature effectively. Many trusts have good links with their higher education institutions so find out what is available in your area.

You may be pleasantly surprised and there may be opportunities out there to support your continuing professional development, which are often not well publicised but certainly worth investigating! If you have found an effective way of keeping up to date, share this with other readers via the NIP Forum and don't keep it to yourself.

1. Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The Code: Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives. London: NMC; 2008.