Of all the specialty nursing practices, a nursing professional development (NPD) practitioner is one that allows nurses to help other nurses advance while also retaining the bedside work that’s so important.
This week is Nursing Professional Development Week, and the timing offers a chance to recognize what these practitioners do and how it helps advance the nursing profession.
Nursing professional development practitioners have a range of duties, says Mary Harper PhD, RN-BC, and the Association for Nursing Professional Development’s director of nursing professional development. Whether they are assisting nurses at bedside with a procedure or on-boarding new nurses in an organization, the work they do has the common goal of improved patient care.
The career offers a role that Harper explains has the following seven distinct responsibilities:
- partner for practice transitions
- learning facilitator
- change agent
- champion of scientific inquiry
- advocate for the the nursing professional development practitioner practice
NPD practitioners are hands-on when it comes to helping new nurses adjust to a job, training a unit on better practices, or advancing the skills of a nurse transitioning to a management role. Their role within an organization (sometimes called a clinical nurse educator or learning consultant and generally operating out of the organization’s education department), is one that continually advances how things are done.
The nursing professional development practitioner also has an outward facing role as well. They are in charge of developing cooperative relationships with academics and with members of other professional community organizations. They research evidence-based practices and quality improvement to ensure the best possible care and treatment for patients.
Harper says sometimes nurses assume the role would remove them from direct patient care, but she says that’s not the case. There are many times when the nursing professional development practitioner works with staff at a patient’s bedside to help them improve practices. They still have the direct interaction while also having a chance to work with nursing staff as well. Even more important is that they are teaching skills that will directly, and often very quickly, help patients.
“Growth within nurses leads to organizational change,” she says. “We really influence these things. Our goal is always that the patients receive optimal care.”
If you are interested in a career as a nursing professional development practitioner, becoming a preceptor is the best first step, says Harper. Many in the field have an MSN degree with a focus in education. While that isn’t required, working toward that goal will equip you with the skills you’ll use frequently. Dual certification as a NPD practitioner and in another specialty can only help you.
Just because a nurse has excellent skills, doesn’t mean those skills are what’s necessary for a NPD role. “You can be a very competent nurse, and you are thrust into this role where you don’t know how to do a needs assessment or measure the outcome of what you have done,” she says. “We find it’s really important for NPD practitioners to have change management and leadership to fulfill that role.” Training for the role boosts both your nursing skills and your leadership skills.
You can also reach out to your organization’s education department and ask to get involved, says Harper. For example, if you find some of the staff is having trouble starting an IV and you are the best nurse at starting an IV on the floor, you can offer to help put together a training plan for improving the process. “It’s a great way to get recognized,” Harper says.
“This is a distinct specialty with its own specialty skills,” she says. This week, celebrate the nurses who are in this varied and busy role.
Does a career working with the tiniest infants appeal to you? Working as a neonatal nurse is celebrated today and is an excellent time to find out more about this branch of nursing.
Spearheaded by the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, (NANN), Neonatal Nurses Day is marked around the country on September 15 and honors those nurses who work with newborns. Typically, these nurses are working in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) helping babies who have illnesses or health problems right after birth. Neonatal nurses might also care for older babies if their health condition necessitates longer-term care.
Neonatal nurses will care for infants who are born full-term and those who are born prematurely, sometimes months early. The babies might also have been born with a genetic condition or birth defects or who may have developed an infection.
Because the babies are in such fragile health, a neonatal nurse will call on a range of skills and will require excellent critical thinking and decision making. Working in an environment where a baby’s condition can change rapidly, neonatal nurses must cultivate a steady approach and devote time and effort to developing excellent interpersonal and teamwork skills.
An integral part of what is generally a large team of nurses, physicians, specialists, social workers, and staff, the neonatal nurse’s role is defined, but requires an awareness of how all the different parts operate as a team. Newborns under the care of a neonatal nurse often have complex conditions and their age and oftentimes underdeveloped body systems put them at risk for additional complications.
Families are a big part of neonatal care. Parents, extended family, and friends are anxious about the baby and the unfamiliar equipment and setting only heightens that anxiety. A neonatal nurse also works with families and must be able to do so in the face of all kinds of outcomes.
The impact neonatal nurses make on the infant in their care and the infants’ families often links them for life. Families depend on nurses to provide care and also to fill them in on treatments, procedures, facts, and tell them what’s going on in a manner they can understand when they are coping with so much stress. As a neonatal nurse, you’ll develop strong bonds that will make the babies as memorable to you as you are to them.
And as medical advances progress at a rapid rate, it’s imperative that neonatal nurses are lifelong learners who will continue to gather information, knowledge, and get certified. They need to understand the developmental variations of these babies to help inform treatment and care.
If you’re a neonatal nurse, take today to reflect on the way you change the lives of the babies you care for and how you are an important partner with their families. If a neonatal nurse has been a big part of your life, be sure to celebrate the job they do in this inspiring career.
This week’s Vascular Nurses Week (September 9-15) recognizes the important role vascular nurses play in the health of patients with vascular conditions or disease.
Requiring a broad skill set, vascular nurses care for patients in their home setting or can assist in surgical procedures. Their specific expertise is required for anything ranging from varicose vein surgery to amputation procedures to cardiac stent placement. In the course of a day they can care for those with leg ulcers or those suffering from peripheral artery disease. Their treatment and care can range from education about vein health. They educate about lifestyle factors that can improve it to helping patients and their families understand infection prevention and control.
Vascular nurses work as part of a team to care for patients, so communication, collaboration, and attention to detail are essential skills for them to have. Because they might work in emergency situations, they must have excellent critical thinking skills. Those will help them quickly assess what’s going on and determine how they can help.
To provide the best possible nursing care and to follow the highest of standards in care, obtaining a certification is an excellent career move. Offered through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the cardiac/vascular certification is valid for five years and offers an excellent way to advance your knowledge.
Because vascular nurses see patients for a variety of conditions, they gain experience on how other conditions add to the complexity of patients’ vascular care and treatment. Diabetes and heart disease are a big influence on vascular health as are lifestyle choices like diet, exercise, and smoking. Being overweight can also have an effect on the proper function of vascular systems.
Vascular nurses are tasked with providing patients with educational materials about preventing the development or worsening of vascular disease, but also how to care for themselves if it has developed. Given that vascular disease cuts across all demographics and locations, vascular nurses encounter many cultures and attitudes that are closely entwined with the very things that impact health. Knowing the cultures and habits of populations served is important. By having cultural competency, nurses will be able to help develop care plans that will work with the patient’s beliefs and traditions and therefore, be effective.
With this partnership approach, nurses have the opportunity to develop close relationships with their patients and see the positive impacts of their care. Many vascular diseases are painful and being able to see improvement in a patient’s comfort is rewarding and inspiring.
If you think vascular nursing is a good career match for you, check out the Society for Vascular Nursing to find out more about joining a professional network or learning more about training and education.
Nephrology Nurses Week kicks off today and is a time to appreciate the dedication and expertise nephrology nurses bring to their roles.
Nephrology nurses have a distinct role in helping patients across the age spectrum who are dealing with issues concerning kidney function and health. Whether it’s a family history that predisposes someone to kidney disease, an older patient who is coping with a new diagnosis, a teen recovering from a kidney transplant, or a person with advanced end stage kidney disease, nephrology nurses specialize in all the ways to help patients.
Anyone interested in a career as a nephrology nurse can reference the American Nephrology Nurses Association for background information, career tips, certification information, and guidance. Nephrology nurses can flourish in any number of settings from corporate to home care to a coordinator of dialysis or transplant services. They have a broad knowledge of the entire body system and will know how kidney function will impact the rest of the body.
Often nephrology nurses will administer the frequent dialysis needed to keep a patient functioning. They might also counsel patients and their families who are preparing for a kidney transplant or recovering from one. Their expertise in helping both the patient learn about typical expected symptoms or results and in helping family members care for a patient will make a significant difference in physical and emotional recovery.
With the rapid treatment advances for complex health issues, many nephrology nurses become well-versed in the many conditions patients have and how those conditions can impact the kidneys and treatments for kidney disease. Because of this, they need excellent teamwork skills and critical thinking skills that will help them assess and prioritize care in crisis situations.
As with other specialties, obtaining certification improves your knowledge base, and it also helps you serve your patients to the best of your abilities. Certification is available for several areas of nephrology nursing including as a nephrology nurse, as a nephrology nurse practitioner, as a dialysis nurse, as a dialysis LPN, or even as a clinical hemodialysis technician.
Studying for and passing a certification exam is well within your reach, especially if you have been in the field for a while. You very likely already know a good deal of the information. But certification helps you stay up-to-date on the latest evidence-based practices, technology, and treatment, and also gives you a peek into the exciting developments in the industry.
As you gain more training, your employment becomes even more valuable to your organization. Certification also shows your dedication to your role. Taking the extra time to advance your learning shows the kind of attention to detail and commitment to high-quality care that employers want to see. When career advisers talk about showing your skills and your results, certification fits the bill.
Take this week to appreciate nephrology nurses and to find out more about the career if it sounds appealing to you.
Today, September 8, celebrates the nurses who work with children and families who are often facing some of the most frightening times of their lives.
As Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses Day, today honors a nursing career path in which nurses rely on their expertise to help patients and families navigate diagnoses of cancer and blood disorders.
The Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses (APHON) notes how nurses bring technical nursing skills to this role, but they also rely heavily on their compassionate care skills. Working with infants, children, and adolescents with potentially life-threatening diseases requires a high degree of sensitivity. But pediatric hematology/oncology nurses also work with the family unit to help them understand medical plans, procedures, results, and potential outcomes.
But the deeply rewarding career offers the opportunity to touch lives in a way few other professions allow. Pediatric hematology/oncology nurses often form close bonds with both their patients and with the families who grow to rely on them for a level of care that respects their difficult situation.
They are also there to motivate patients when needed and to comfort them when that’s the only thing necessary in the moment. These nurses are continually assessing medical, physical, emotional, and social needs of their patients and families.
If you’re interested in working in this area of nursing, be sure to train in the environment for a while to help you decide, either through a clinical, an internship, or after you earn your degree. APHON recommends beginning in a pediatric inpatient unit so you gain an understanding of the pediatric care environment. Pediatric hematology/oncology nurses can work in various settings including inpatient, outpatient, home care, free-standing centers, hospitals, or physician’s offices.
Because nurses in this area need to keep current in a fast-paced and constantly evolving field, a BSN is a good goal to begin. Certification will keep you up-to-date on the newest treatments and evidence-based practices, but pediatric hematology/oncology nurses should continue to keep themselves informed on their own as well. Join a professional organization to meet others in your field and gain insight and education.
If you are a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse, take this day to feel proud of your work and your patient and family care. With such an intense and sometimes incredibly stressful environment, be sure to practice self care. Taking care of yourself will help you be a better nurse.
And if you have pediatric hematology/oncology nurses in your life, this is a great day to appreciate all they do.