1. Johnson, Joyce A. PhD, RN-BC

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I was recently reminded about the need for nursing professional development (NPD) practitioners to conduct research on the effectiveness of training methods and our practice in general. For example, in health care, we spend thousands of dollars on CPR training every year, but if we could prove that alternate methods of training were just as effective and cost less, we would be contributing a positive impact toward the bottom line. This would also elevate our visibility and credibility with administration.


NPD practitioners looking at evidence and conducting research can have a significant impact on our practice. We base our practice on current evidence, but how much is available? Most education research is conducted in academic settings, which may or may not be applicable. Do we look at the outcomes of our orientation programs? Do we look at online training versus classroom face-to-face training and when each is most effective? Do we look at the outcome of our CPR classes or safety classes? Do we look at the effectiveness of teaching techniques likes games, puzzles, case studies, and simulation?


I was recently at a meeting and heard a question raised by one of the members. Is education a distraction from healthcare delivery? How can we ensure that the time spent in educating our staff is really productive? We certainly need to create capacity in our staff and leadership. Is education the solution? Would we miss professional development if it did not exist? Quality and safety are the return on investment of education. This is a call for NPD practitioners to conduct and implement research in their practice and to make our work more visible to the organization.


The obvious barriers to this call are time and knowledge gaps around evidence-based practice and nursing research. I would argue that evaluating evidence and conducting research are significant parts of our role. "The principles of evidence-based practice, while highly desirable, are still in the early stages of development for the NPD specialty. There is little research that identifies and validates best practices. However, since its inception, the specialty has drawn on the well-known principles in education and adult learning[horizontal ellipsis]. Practice-based evidence depends on the NPD's practice environments systemically collecting data for analyses that document best practices and that hopefully can be generalized to other settings. Some NPD practice environments are well suited to this type of contribution, and others are limited." (Bradley & Benedict, 2010, p. 2). Standard 14 in the Nursing Professional Development Scope and Standards of Practice states that "The nursing professional development specialist integrates research findings into practice." (National Nursing Staff Development Organization & American Nurses Association, 2010, p. 40). The criteria include use of best evidence, creating a supportive environment for nursing research, supporting and participating in research, and disseminating research findings. The standards also state that part of the NPD role is to incorporate "findings of research and evidence-based learning strategies (for example, cognitive research in the context of the physiology of learning)." (National Nursing Staff Development Organization & American Nurses Association, 2010, p. 21). According to a white paper on the Role of Nursing Professional Development in Helping Meet Institute of Medicine's Future of Nursing Recommendations, NPD activities to support this recommendation include "mentor nurses to conduct research through all levels of nursing including the bedside throughout all levels of practice and practice settings" (2013, p. 4). It is clear that the role of the NPD practitioner includes basing practice on evidence and conducting research on that practice.


The second barrier is potential lack of knowledge in evidence-based practice, conducting integrative reviews, and nursing research. If you have previously conducted research, then you know that the starting place is asking the right question. On the basis of your question, you conduct a literature review to see if the evidence to answer your question already exists. A question one might ask is which teaching strategy is most effective for learning CPR?


Do we already have enough verifiable evidence to make that decision? Do we just need to implement evidence that exists? If limited evidence exists, then is this a potential area for research? Utilize your librarians to help you discover the evidence. If little or no evidence exists, ask a research question and plan your project. Develop and submit an institutional review board proposal. Conduct your research and then publish your findings so others can make use of your evidence.


If you have never conducted research before, your first contact could be your nursing research committee who can support and assist you. Or is there someone in your organization that conducts integrative reviews and/or nursing research? If not, are there other nurses in your facility who have conducted research who could assist you? Are there staff members in school or students who need to do a project who might help by taking on your project? Or you might take an online class ( or consult one of the many references on how to conduct nursing research.


Other barriers might include lack of support from management and leadership for research activities, lack of a nursing research infrastructure, lack of a librarian or other support staff in the research process, lack of access to a database to search, difficulty in getting approved by the institutional review board, and a general fear of research because of a previous experience or lack of experience.


Once you have eliminated as many of your barriers as possible, you can start working toward developing a new body of generalizable knowledge for our profession. It is crucial to ask the right question. Here are few ideas you might want to research about professional development practice. These are ideas and not necessarily written in the research question format.


* How effective is new employee orientation? Could it be done in a different format and still be as effective?


* When should we use online training rather than face-to-face training?


* What is the best way to engage staff in the learning process?


* Does having a philosophy of education really matter in day-to-day teaching?


* Do younger staff really want to learn using their smartphones?


* How can I motivate the staff to learn the required information when they are tired of hearing it year after year?


* Is the flipped classroom a successful strategy?


* How do the teacher's characteristics, education, and experience impact learning?


* What are the current trends in NPD?



I encourage you, as an NPD practitioner, to become involved in evidence-based professional development practice and research and share your results with our NPD community.




Bradley D., Benedict M. (2010). The ANA professional nursing development scope and standards, 2009: A continuing education perspective. Retrieved from[Context Link]


National Nursing Staff Development Organization & American Nurses Association. (2010). Nursing professional development scope & standards of practice. Silver Spring, MD: [Context Link]


Role of nursing professional development in helping meet Institute of Medicine's future of nursing recommendations. (2013). Retrieved from[Context Link]