An overview of the competency movement in nursing and midwifery

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Collegian, 2008, 15 (2), pp. 45 - 53
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The aim of this paper is to examine the purpose and growth of the development of general, advanced and specialist competency standards in nursing and midwifery in Australia. The definitions, content, types, utility and acceptability of competencies are reviewed. This paper also reports the results of a recent survey of nurses and midwives about the uses of competency standards. Challenges in identifying and assessing the impact of competency standards on practice and professional development; reasons for their proliferation and associated shortcomings such as their lack of cultural sensitivity and inability to reflect the complexity of nursing care are also explored. The rationale for this paper is that charting these issues and identifying gaps in the field will assist the further development and refinement of competency frameworks for Australian nursing. The paper concludes by recommending that future research in this area should focus on: (1) formal analysis of the validity and suitability of competency standards in relation to the purposes for which they are designed; (2) the mapping of competency domains, elements and performance criteria to identify similarities and differences in order to provide insight into the nature of both specialist and advanced practice nursing; and (3) a systematic review of the competency literature to ascertain the level of evidence that exists to support the use of competencies in terms of standard setting, safe practice and enhancement of patient outcomes. Crown Copyright © 2008.
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