Reply by Lenburg on Redesigning Expectations for Initial and Continuing

Carrie B. Seymour's response:

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the important point Roz Seymour raised in her recent letter related to the September, 1999, series of articles on initial and continuing competence. I could not agree more with the concept of faculty competence as an essential precursor for promoting competence among students and practitioners.

These articles strongly imply that faculty need to be competent in fulfilling their responsibilities, but I am glad to reinforce the point. Indeed, I spend most of my professional time working with nursing faculties across the country doing just that through implementing the COPA Model. Competence applies to teachers as much as to learners and practitioners. Some schools dedicate resources to support sustained faculty development over a period of time, which is essential for reversing innate resistance to changing long-held perceptions, habits and methods of "doing our work". When faculty become convinced of the imperative to apply competency outcomes and performance assessment methods in teaching students, they may be more likely to apply the concepts to their own need for competence as teachers. Or, perhaps, it's the other way around: As faculty integrate competency-based methods in their practice roles as teachers, they may become more aware of the need to apply the same concepts in teaching students. Either way, students are much more likely to become competent practitioners when faculty are competent practitioners, in teaching and in clinical practice.

I believe a system of certification for continuing competence is an important process for promoting profession-wide contemporary competence, regardless of the particular practice area. Having given considerable thought to the subject and the plethora of related problems, I still am convinced that this is necessary to promote changes of the magnitude that come to mind. Members of the profession, in all their diverse roles, are too disparate in actual abilities for anyone to assume all of them are competent currently, much less years after initial licensure or certification. We have ample evidence of the problems. We also know that a large percentage, perhaps the majority, of our members will not make the efforts required to change daily practices unless incentives are implemented, some of which may have to take the form of required documentation of current competence in the context of today's practice environments. In addition, we can, and should, develop and implement a variety of other positive and creative acknowledgements of competence. Perhaps implementing them first would help pave the way for more structured and standardized methods on a national scope.

I believe we need to think creatively about our "competence in practice" as an internal and essential perspective of who we are professionally. It needs to become a habit, a way of responding to the everyday problems and issues we confront, regardless of which role we occupy. Implementing the competency perspective seems so logical, so preferable, and so very necessary in this complex world in which we practice. Our obligation to society is clear; how we implement it is up to our collective creativity and commitment to our professional purpose.