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  1. Hodges, Jan MSN, RN
  2. Hansen, Linda MSN, RN


A competency-based orientation is an orientation program that focuses on a new employee's ability to actually perform the expectations of his or her role in a particular setting. It differs from a traditional model in which the focus is on the cognitive knowledge necessary for the role. The authors will identify key elements educators may consider when evaluating such a program. The process used by the author's organization to evaluate and restructure the competency-based orientation program for registered nurses is also described.


As defined by Alspach, competency-based orientation (CBO) is learner focused (Alspach, 1995). It is based on the attainment of established competencies, and the assessment of the learner determines the individualization of orientation. It is also important to realize the difference between competence and competency. According to Alspach, competence is the possession of the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to perform the job, whereas competency is the employee's ability to actually perform in the environment in accordance with the role and standards of the institution (Alspach, 1992). Because it is not always feasible to evaluate performance in the actual setting, many institutions elect to differentiate between the two terms.