2nd Letter to the Editor by Dunn on Assuring Continued Competence - Policy Questions

Initial and Continuing Competence in Education and Practice: Why Should It Be Mandatory?

August 10, 2001
Letter to the Editor 2 by Dunn in response to Assuring Continued Competence - Policy Questions and Approaches: How Should the Profession Respond? By Susan Whittaker, MSN, RN; Winifred Carson; Mary C. Smolenski, EdD, RN, CS, FNP (June 30, 2000)

Dear Editor:

Authors Whittaker, Carson and Smolenski (Assuring Continued Competence - Policy Questions and Approaches: How Should the Profession Respond?) deserve kudos for their informative overview addressing one of nursing's most recalcitrant issues, continuing competence in nursing practice. How does nursing need to respond to this challenge? Nursing needs to respond with one mind-with collectivity.

Whittaker, Carson and Smolenski report on the work of a variety of continuing competency stakeholder-groups, including the work of several influential nursing entities. The American Nurses Association, along with its suborganizations, the American Academy of Nursing and the American Nurses Credentialing Center, clearly offer significant policy leadership as nursing struggles with this thorny issue of competence. While collectively, nursing has an ultimate focus on the public's health, not all nursing groups concerned about continuing competence have the same immediate raison être. Therefore, it is especially critical that all nursing entities involved with continuing competency draft a unified, collective policy response reflective of nursing practice and protective of the public's health. With the ambiguities surrounding continuing competency and the multitude of disparate views on the issue, nursing's collective vision may well provide the only glue holding policy formulation together.

Who better to speak with the public about its health than nursing! Yet, nursing's history is one of divisiveness and governance by others (Wuest, 1999). If nursing does not make its own collective response to issues of nursing competency, history shows that others will respond for us.

A caveat: Whether accurate or not, in eras past, collective nursing endeavors brought accusations of turf guarding and professional insularity. Professional insularity is not being suggested here. Policy formulation related to nursing competency measures must utilize a cross- disciplinary model that demonstrates nursing's understanding that the public is best served when policy formulation has been an inclusive and collaborative process across all stakeholders (Edwards, 1997).

Barbara J. Dunn, RN, MSN
Armstrong Atlantic State University
Savannah, GA 31419-1997


Edwards, J. B. (1997). Collaboration between medical and nursing education in community-based settings. In J. C. McCloskey & H. K. Grace (Eds.). Current Issues in Nursing. (5th ed.) (pp. 537-544). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

Wuest, J. (1999). Professionalism and the evolution of nursing as a discipline: A feminist perspective. In J. W. Kenney (Ed.). Philosophical and Theoretical Perspectives for Advanced Nursing Practice. (4th ed.) (pp. 53-65). Boston, MA: Jones and Bartlett.