Nursing Professional Development


The specialty of nursing professional development (NPD) has evolved over the years. The first educational focus in nursing started with the establishment of the first national nursing organization, the American Society of Superintendents for Training School Nurses in 1893. In 1971, the American Nurses Association established the Council on Continuing Education, and in 1974, Helen Tobin, often referred to as the "Godmother of Staff Development," published The Process of Staff Development: Components for Change. The first standards related to nursing professional development were the Standards for Continuing Education in Nursing, also published in 1974. The Journal for Nurses in Staff Development was first published in 1985, and in 1989  Belinda Peutz spearheaded the establishment and incorporation of the National Nursing Staff Development Organization (NNSDO). NNSDO has now become the Association for Nursing Profesional Development (ANPD). The Association for Nursing Professional Development advances the specialty practice of nursing professional development for the enhancement of healthcare outcomes. There was a tremendous increase in NPD publications and activities in the 1990s. ANPD published the latest Scope and Standards of Practice for Nursing Professional Development in 2016. The standards define Nursing Professional Development as "a specialized nursing practice that facilitates the professional role development and growth of nurses and other healthcare personnel along the continuum from novice to expert."[1]

The focus in the earlier versions of standards was on the relationship between continuing education and staff development, which comprised orientation, in-service, and continuing education. Over the years the model evolved using a systems approach with inputs, throughputs, and outputs. The latest edition of the standards includes inputs of the NPD practitioner and learner. Throughputs include the standards in the center, the NPD roles in the middle and NPD responsibilities in the outer circle. Outputs are the learner, change, and professional role competence and growth, which ultimately lead to optimal care and health and protection of the public.

Issues of Concern

The newest areas of focus in the 2016 standards include: facilitating professional role development, including practice transitions, managing change, championing scientific inquiry, collaborating interprofessionally, and advancing the specialty as leaders and mentors. 

Five current issues in the NPD sphere of influence identified by Woolforde[2] were new practice arenas, new roles in NPD,  increasing diversity, return on investment, and NPD leadership. 

With the changing healthcare environment, roles of health care providers are changing. More care is being provided outside the acute care setting in outpatient care settings, such as clinics, home care, and other specialized care facilities. NPD practitioners need to expand their role to support the transition of nurses and other healthcare team members across learning and practice environments. With the new practice arenas comes new roles for nurses. The Future of Nursing Report from the Institute of Medicine challenges nurses to assume new and expanded roles to help meet the evolving needs of the healthcare system. There are now nurse navigators, health coaches, community health workers, and many new roles in nursing informatics, telehealth, and patient safety. Nursing as a profession and associations such as ANPD are working on ways to increase diversity in the field.  We need to have diverse practitioners to help meet the needs of our diverse population.

Return on investment is another issue that impacts NPD. Ongoing restructuring and healthcare changes continue to reshape how healthcare organizations operate and how they measure success. Return on investment (ROI) is an important factor in the viability of any organization. Using information from articles by Opperman and colleagues on ROI, including a review of the evidence[3] and implications for practice,[4] Garrison and Beverage[5] outlined how they implemented a process to measure ROI for NPD. They provided information on how they calculated ROI for several projects including peritoneal dialysis and clean colon closure. NPD practitioners can use this method to evaluate education priorities and allocate resources based on statistically relevant data.

The capacity of the NPD leader has expanded. NPD value relies heavily on our ability to show value across the board in ways that benefit the entire organization. Brunt and Bogdan outlined[6] information specific to the NPD leadership role in advancing the specialty practice of NPD. An important responsibility of the NPD leader is to help develop a department plan that supports the organization's mission, vision, and strategic goals.

Maloney[7] indicated 3 of the biggest challenges in NPD are to extend leadership beyond the practice setting, demonstrate the value of NPD to health care and patient outcomes, and advocate for the specialty of NPD. This is consistent with issues identified by other authors.

As the practice of NPD develops, in addition to basic certification in this specialty, advanced certification will be available in 2021.

Clinical Significance

Nursing professional development (NPD) practitioners play a critical role in preparing practitioners for current and future roles and helping individuals cope with an ever-changing healthcare environment. They facilitate the professional role development of nurses and other healthcare professionals, encouraging interprofessional education and collaboration. They become champions of scientific inquiry by promoting the generation and dissemination of new knowledge and the use of evidence to influence NPD practice, guide clinical practice, and improve patient care. They actively support, promote, and demonstrate NPD as a nursing practice specialty.

Article Details

Article Author

Barbara Brunt

Article Editor:

Melanie Morris


9/25/2020 9:23:02 PM



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