How to Create a Nursing Professional Development Program

Image of content creator for bio page
Written by Diana Campion, MSN, APRN, ANP-C Education Development Nurse, Content Writer, IntelyCare
Colleagues listen to an instructor during a nursing professional development session.

Nursing is a highly specialized profession, constantly evolving to meet the needs of residents, clients, and patients. Lifelong nursing professional development is essential to patient care and to the health of your business. Continuing education among healthcare professionals provides multiple advantages, including:

  • improved patient outcomes
  • highly skilled staff
  • increased retention rates
  • enhanced financial performance
  • decreased malpractice lawsuits

How can your organization support your nurses to maximize these benefits? In this article, we’ll review what creating a professional development program entails and a few ways to implement education at your facility, whether you’re a small, local skilled nursing facility (SNF) or a large acute care hospital looking to achieve magnet status.

Nursing Professional Development Basics

What Is It?

A professional development program is a broad term encompassing the opportunities your facility offers nurses to support their clinical practice and role advancement. Your program will be unique based on its size, needs, and resources. However, the most significant influence your facility can have is to provide education time and resources, which nurses cite as their biggest barriers to learning.

Creating professional development opportunities for nurses is a hefty responsibility. Most organizations use internal resources for new hires and day-to-day training needs. Some facilities manage their continuing professional development internally, while others outsource it to a trusted third-party provider.

Who Leads It?

Your facility will need to choose a nursing educator to organize and manage the program, ensuring it runs smoothly. Different types of nursing educators can manage your staff development, ranging from a professional development specialist to a director of education.

If you’re wondering which nurse educator core competencies to enlist for this position, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends experience and skills in the following areas:

  • adult learning theories and principles
  • curriculum and implementation
  • nursing practice
  • research and evidence
  • communication, collaboration, and partnership
  • ethical/legal principles and professionalism
  • monitoring and evaluation
  • management, leadership, and advocacy

If there’s a nursing educator on staff that you’d like to promote but needs more training or support, courses are available to help them prepare for the role. Your educator may also complete the nursing professional development certification provided by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Ways to Implement Nursing Staff Development

In the previous section, you learned about professional development and the type of nurse who manages it. In this section, you’ll learn more about creating ways to implement the program for your nurses.

1. Facility Training

Each organization requires a robust staff training program. It begins upon hire with nurse onboarding training, orientation as they learn their role, and mentorship as they become acclimated to their jobs but may still need support.

Training continues on an annual basis. Nurses must demonstrate competency in skills essential to their role and complete education for facility compliance with government regulations, such as HIPAA. Throughout the year, in-service training is a valuable staff development tool to reinforce essential education, such as infection control, and provide training for new policies, technology, and skills.

While nurses are responsible for providing safe and skilled care to their patients and residents, nursing leaders are responsible for ensuring their nurses’ competency. The facility’s staff development program typically includes remediation training and monitoring if a nurse makes an error due to a knowledge or skill deficit. This training aims to improve the nurse’s performance toward providing safe and proficient care.

2. Continuing Education

Nurses complete continuing education (CE) training, the most common form of nursing professional development, to improve their knowledge, meet state renewal mandates, and fulfill their requirements for specialty certification. Each state has its own specific nursing CE requirements. To earn CE hours or credits, nurses must complete the education provided by an accredited CE provider approved by the state.

Your organization can apply to become an accredited CE provider and create courses that meet the state requirements. Your facility benefits from developing and tailoring the classes to your patients’ or residents’ needs, while you have direct control over the quality and integrity of coursework. Also, it allows you to offer your nurses free CEs.

The drawback of being your own CE provider is the costly and time-consuming application process. You’ll need a team of nurse educators and instructional designers to create the content and a learning management system to deploy your courses and maintain the records.

You can apply to become a CE provider through some state boards of nursing (such as in California), state nurses associations, or through a nursing accreditation organization like the ANCC, the national authority for accreditation of nurse continuing professional development (NCPD). Securing a trusted partner to meet your organization’s education needs is vital if you decide to outsource this to a third party.

3. Career Ladders

A nursing career ladder is a nursing staff development program where nurses advance their role while remaining at their facility, providing patient care. Career ladders have multiple benefits — for one, they improve job satisfaction, which leads to increased retention rates and furthers role development. The nurses develop a new skill set, and the organization benefits from happy and invested employees.

For example, a nursing facility may have a career ladder program for their CNAs to work and have discounted education through a local employer-sponsored nursing program to become an LPN or RN. The CNA continues to work at the facility throughout the program; when they complete it and obtain their nursing license, they can work as a nurse for their facility.

Want To Learn About Nursing Education Opportunities?

IntelyCare is dedicated to high-quality nursing practice and has an education department dedicated to advancing the nursing professional development of our IntelyPros. Check out the latest nursing education and facility news, by signing up for our free newsletter today.