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  1. Schmidt, Lee A. PhD, RN
  2. Nelson, Deana MHA, RN
  3. Godfrey, Leah MHA, RN


Clinical and career ladder programs were popular adjuncts to recruitment and retention during the nursing shortage of the 1980s. Programs commonly used Benner's work as an organizing framework and typically used activities such as continuing education credit, committee participation, work experience, certifications, academic degrees, community service, and performance appraisal scores as criteria for advancement. The authors present a unique clinical ladder program based on Carper's Fundamental Patterns of Knowing in Nursing. This philosophical work has been debated in the literature for many years, yet to the authors' knowledge, this work has never been used as the conceptual basis for program development. The four patterns of knowing in nursing were found to be consistent with the definition of professional nursing, and provided a meaningful organizing framework that was well received by staff registered nurses. An overall history of clinical ladders is presented, followed by the organization's prior experience with these programs, and finally the details of development and implementation of the program with plans for evaluation.