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Back in nursing school, when we were faced with a seemingly endless stream of new nursing knowledge, our biggest concern was what will be on the test? We interrogated our instructors to clearly establish what we needed to know so we could do well. We tried to avoid jamming even one more fact into our saturated brains if we wouldn't need it imminently.
And then we graduated and began our professional nursing careers in the real world. We soon learned life as a nurse was the test and what we needed to know had no limits. We needed to be competent patient advocates, clinicians, educators, and managers. It wasn't OK to say to a patient, "I'm sorry. I can't answer your question-I didn't need that information for any of my tests."
We found the learning curve in the real world to be steep. New nurses still bear the full weight of professional accountability. Clinical practice doesn't have much room for error, and errors can hurt people. So, after nursing school, we gleaned what we could from our more experienced nursing peers.
But here's the scary part, especially for those of us who entered the profession long before the concept of evidence-based practice took root. I've heard that at least 50% of what we learned years ago is either no longer valid or has no basis in clinical evidence. The problem is, we don't always know which 50% of our knowledge base that is!
Wherever we are in our careers, it's essential to pursue continuing education and seek professional development opportunities. We don't need to consider what will be on the test because at some point, we can put to use just about everything we learn-whether we've learned it through professional experience, informal education, or more formal courses of study. We must renew and confirm what we already know, as well as discover new insights. We owe that to ourselves, to our patients, and to society. Only through ongoing learning can we continuously evolve and transform ourselves and our profession to achieve new and higher levels of excellence. Life as a nurse is indeed a test-plan and prepare yourself well to ace it every day!
Until next time-
Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM
Vice President, Emergency, Trauma and Aeromedical Services
Christiana Care Health System
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