Setting Foundations for a Nursing Professional Development Curriculum

December 22, 2022

Professional development is not a new concept but is one that many industries often lack, even though they would greatly benefit from it. In any profession, it should be the employer’s desire to hire professionals who consistently want to grow in their skill set, education, and technique. In the same way, the employee should want to grow in their profession, brush up on current knowledge, develop existing skills and build new ones, and become a greater asset to their company.

Now more than ever, healthcare professionals are seeking development programs in their workplace, and institutions are beginning to sense the true value of professional development programs for a company or organization’s success. At CIP, we encourage professional development for all healthcare professionals and make it our mission to communicate how it can benefit an entire industry. Join us as we uncover the value of professional development programs for nursing professionals and show you how you can incorporate an effective one for your nursing staff.

What Is Professional Development?

Professional development includes courses, training, and other curriculum-based activities that allow employees to remain competent and excel in their chosen fields. A study showed that 68% of workers identify training and development as the most important work policy, with seven out of 10 professionals considering this factor when deciding if they will stay with a company for the long run. Professional development programs can be applied to every field of work but can look different in each setting. When creating your professional development program, it is important to consider the roles that can benefit from the program and how they can be altered to fit the needs of that specific job position.

In healthcare, professional development programs can be made to match specific roles. For example, pharmacists can engage in professional development by focusing on scientific literature, staying up-to-date on drug facts and studies, and honing their “soft skills.” However, a surgeon’s professional development might include more technical practices that allow them to brush up on their surgical techniques.

Why Is Professional Development Critical in the Nursing Field?

Nursing, like any profession in the healthcare industry, requires a flow of continued learning and development. Although professional development has proven effective for any profession, it is especially vital for those that deal with the health and safety of our communities. In this case, professional development is not only beneficial for the employer and the professional. It is also crucial for the patient whose life and health depend on high-quality care from their nursing staff. Some of the many reasons that professional development is critical in the nursing field include:

Improves patient care and satisfaction 

Organizations are beginning to recognize the true impact of nurses’ competency in patient care and outcomes. Since patient care is a nurse’s primary objective, it is vital to include professional development that allows them to brush up and build on their overall skill set. This includes but is not limited to bedside manners, effective communication, and overall care administration. Improved patient care leads to improved patient outcomes, which positively affects an organization’s bottom line. 

Decreases turnover rate

A study has shown that companies that offer a professional development program to their employees have seen a 34% increase in their overall retention rate. Often, employees associate the presence of a professional development program with opportunities for career advancement, which is their ultimate goal in entering the workforce. When nurses feel they have the tools and resources they need to improve in their role, they feel valued by their employers and are motivated to perform their best. 

The 2022 National Health Care Retention Report from Nursing Solutions Inc. reported a 25.9% turnover rate, which is costing hospitals an average of $5.2 million to $9.0 million a year. These numbers alone should urge hospitals and other healthcare organizations utilizing nursing professionals to incorporate professional development programs. This is an opportunity to increase retention, lower turnover costs, and enhance the skills of our nurses. 

Aids in recruiting and hiring 

Offering professional development programs shows your current employees that you are willing to invest in them as professionals and build a foundation of loyalty. However, this is also a great way to send a message to potential employees about your company and the opportunities it offers its professionals. You want to hire and retain the best talent in your field. Professional development programs ensure that you attract diligent and driven professionals while keeping your current employees at the top of their game.

The market for nurses is almost unbeatable, with positions opening up and filling rapidly. With that being said, this market is also highly competitive. Nurses seeking work often meet with several facilities and compare them on factors such as salary, training, flexibility, and the experiences of previous and current nurses. Employers know this and are finding new ways to stand apart from the competition. Emphasizing your professional development program will set you apart from other employers and will allow nurses to feel like they can grow in their position with you.

Creates a culture of learning

A learning culture is one in which the organization and its employees prioritize learning and improvement. Professional development programs create a culture of learning by offering nurses a direct and accessible way to learn continuously and improve in their field. Creating a learning culture should be essential for any healthcare organization, as there are always new developments, research, and techniques to ensure optimal patient care and outcomes. 

Professional development programs apply to all ages and skill levels. In nursing, there are professionals coming directly from college and other nurses who have been in the field for over 20 years. There is often a variation in skills, knowledge, and technique, and professional development allows nurses from all skill levels and ages to remain on the same page. This leads to consistent care across a hospital or other healthcare office and improves your bottom line.

Provides opportunities for career growth

With 76% of employees seeking out opportunities to expand their careers, it’s no wonder that employers are beginning to emphasize professional development programs. Nurses often have a heart for helping and are continuously looking for ways to make the greatest impact on their patients and within their community. When scouting out potential employers or deciding if they will stay with their current employer, nurses will assess their ability to grow within their field.

When a hospital or organization provides these in-house development programs, it gives nurses a great incentive to continue their journey with them. Nurses will be motivated and encouraged to improve their overall performance, which will greatly benefit the employer’s workflow and patient satisfaction.

How To Build a Professional Development Plan

After reviewing the evidence, you’ve decided that a professional development program will serve you, your team, and your goals, but you’re unsure of where to begin in the planning process. Building a professional development plan will help you focus on your organization’s specific needs, fine-tune the details, and effectively communicate them to the parties involved. Below, we have provided a general guideline to help get you started on your journey to building a professional development plan for your nurses.

1. Determine the needs of your nurses

Each hospital or healthcare facility will come with a specific set of needs. It is your responsibility to assess the needs of your nurses and adjust your professional development plan accordingly. There are many ways to go about accessing this information, and you should be sure to consider the following factors in your plan:

Skill gaps

Skill gaps will be a primary factor in your professional development plan, as it is present among nurses in most healthcare facilities. A skill gap is a difference between the skills possessed by the employees and the skills needed to perform the job. Skill gaps can be seen in new nurses, typically nurses who have just finished college and are still adjusting to the role. As they learn to apply their education to their job, they can experience a skill gap.

However, seasoned nurses often fall victim to skill gaps, too, particularly due to a lack of professional development programs to keep them updated on nursing trends. If your nursing staff has a mix of new and seasoned nurses, creating a professional development program that focuses on closing this gap could benefit the entire team and provide consistent performance across the board.

Asks from the team

A great way to ensure the success of your professional development program is by incorporating aspects sought after by your employees. Directly asking the nursing staff what they would like to develop is a great way to understand their areas of weakness. This also ensures participation in the development program, as nurses will be eager to brush up on the skills and techniques they specifically asked for.

It’s important to remember that this program will be used to serve your nursing staff and should be tailored to meet their needs. Although it is important to include learning points important to your organization, you also want to ensure you are making it productive and worthwhile for your staff. With more healthcare facilities beginning to utilize professional development programs, nurses will start comparing what is offered in each program and make employment decisions based on what best fits their needs. 

Reasons for nurse turnover

Understanding the reason for nurse turnover at your facility is key to understanding your organization’s areas of weakness. One leading reason for nurse turnover is the feeling that there are minimal opportunities for growth. A professional development plan should clearly identify how it will provide growth opportunities to nurses. 

Identifying other reasons for turnover is a great way to incorporate preventative measures into your program. For example, if your facility experiences a high turnover rate due to unhealthy communication habits among nurses, you can include exercises that promote effective communication in your curriculum. Finding ways to combat nurse turnover through your professional development program will make your HR team and organization leaders see it as a worthwhile investment.

2. Document and develop a plan for presenting

Before presenting your program, you will want to ensure that you have all the details and answers to potential questions sorted out. Using your gathered intel, put together the framework for your program. Follow these steps to ensure that you have all of your details laid out before presenting:

Determine a curriculum plan

Your program’s curriculum will dictate the things taught and emphasized throughout your program. This is arguably the most taxing and detail-oriented portion of your program planning. You will want to provide a curriculum that makes a true difference in the performance of your nursing staff. If you need help, utilizing a company like CIP will ensure that you create a high-quality and effective curriculum in a timely manner so your program can get up and running.

Determine the costs and delivery method

This program will require a few resources to come to fruition. This can include but is not limited to program funding, a virtual platform, and a physical teaching space. It is important to sort out these logistics before presenting them to your organization leaders so that they are aware of the investment needed for this program to succeed. While gathering this information, calculate a general idea of the savings resulting from this program. This will make the investment seem more desirable and worth it.

Determine a system to measure the effectiveness of the program

Like any investment project, it is important to be able to measure the success of the program. This will ensure that the program is worthwhile and will also reveal weaknesses that can be adjusted to make it more successful. Create a system to measure each aspect of the program and let your support team know that this will be used to assess and prove the program’s effectiveness.

3. Solicit Support

For a program this extensive, it is vital to gain the support of your team. After fine-tuning the details of your program, you should present it to your team in a fashion that speaks to their area of expertise and shows how this program can benefit their position and objectives. The support you are going to need will come from:

  • HR
  • Nursing Leaders
  • Organization Leaders

HR

When presenting to your HR team, emphasize the program’s potential effects on retention and the hiring process. As a reminder, this program serves as a solution for nurses feeling like there is a lack of growth opportunities. It also adds to the organization’s value for potential new hires, giving them an incentive to work for the facility and begin their journey with loyalty if they feel the organization is properly invested in them.

Nursing Leaders

Nursing leaders will also serve as a main point of support. When presenting the program to your nursing leaders, you will find that communicating the curriculum to them will be most effective. Nursing leaders want to be sure that this program will sharpen their nurses’ skills, update their knowledge, and refresh their techniques. This is an excellent time to mention the program’s effects on overall job satisfaction, retention rate, and patient care.

It is important to note that nursing leaders will also serve as a way to encourage your nursing staff to partake in the program. They can take the time to stress to their subordinates the program’s importance and express how it can positively affect their nursing career. This will create an environment of continuous growth and motivation among your staff.

Organization Leaders

Organization leaders will provide the financial means to build this program. Point out the long-term savings ROI (return on investment) from this program. Be sure to mention that the program will lead to a lower turnover rate and increase patient satisfaction, contributing to the bottom line.

Organization leaders are the primary decision-makers and will consider many factors before accepting your proposal. With this in mind, you will want to express the true value of this program in a well-rounded manner. Use this time to clearly identify all of the benefits of your program and how it will help distinguish your organization from others in the same industry.

Begin a Professional Development Program for Your Nurses

A professional development program has unmatched benefits for your team, facility, and patients. Building a professional development curriculum is a large undertaking for a healthcare organization, which can often be why leaders shy away from creating one. At CIP, we understand the effort that goes into creating a professional development program and aim to make it accessible for your facility. Contact us today to learn how you can develop and implement a nursing professional development program at your facility.

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