Letter to the Editor on "Initial and Continuing Competence in Education and Practice..."

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

December 13, 1999
in response to topic Initial and Continuing Competence in Education and Practice: Why Should It Be Mandatory?

Dear Editor:

I write in response to the topic of Continuing Competence.

Teachers are mandated continuing education requirements, as are many other professionals. Would we trust our family to doctors who do not update their skills? If we want respect as a profession, we need to start acting like one.

I work in a specific educational position, I am appalled at what I never learned about other clinical areas or have forgotten 10 years after graduation. I tried to do long-term care for the summer. What a heart-break! As those of you who do this daily know, the changes in regulations and managed-care requirements have greatly affected the delivery of care in our nation's long-term care facilities. Treatment options, transportation, rehabilitation and follow-up are all decided with a representative of the second or third party payor, with a nurse spending many hours on the phone, rather than at the bedside. I was, at best, able to pass medications and do treatments. My employer was not happy paying me an RN wage to do LPN-level care. That said, the units of this home were run mostly by the LPN's who had been there for years, were updated on the standards for care, and had developed a working relationship with the second and third-party payors. They did a wonderful job fighting for appropriate care for their patients. I could not even supervise in the old way with the union giving the CNA's more rights than I had! For reprimanding a CNA for fighting with a fellow CNA in front of a patient and family, I was the one suspended. What do you think of that?

Before you assume you can cross-over to new fields of nursing, or even continue in the same track, commit yourself to continuing education. It is the best way to remain updated on new laws, regulations, trends and treatment options in your field, as well as any other field you may wish to go into. As in school, we need to be able to wear many hats, and make sure that each hat will fit.

In this day of down-sizing, re-structuring, etc., what are the chances you will be with the same employer in 10 years, five years, or next year? Every job will differ in its required knowledge base. If your knowledge base is broad and current, you have a better chance of remaining valuable in this ever-changing field. Where have many of the nurses gone? They have gone where they feel comfortable, and if their skills are not up to date, they go right out the door of this profession, disillusioned and shattered.

As with any profession, mandated continued competency will keep our skills sharp, our heads competent, and our hearts in our chosen profession. Rather than allowing nursing the "luxury" of falling behind, mandated continued competence will promote quality care for patients and jobs for nurses. I see no downside to mandated continued competency requirements for nursing.

Levittown, PA

Gwen R. Fauber, RN