1. Wright, Donna MS, RN

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Donna Wright is one of the original members of the Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD). She has been in nursing professional development (NPD) since the early 1990s. She has a master's degree in nursing education from the University of Minnesota and has both practice and academic teaching experience. Donna is best known for her work in competency assessment. She is the author of several books, including The Ultimate Guide to Competency Assessment in Healthcare (which has been translated into Japanese and is being used throughout Japan) and The Competency Assessment Field Guide. The Wright Competency Model has become the industry standard in professional development. Donna is also a coauthor of the award-winning book Relationship-Based Care: A Model for Transforming Practice. Donna and her colleagues recently completed their book on Advancing Relationship-Based Cultures. Donna Wright is one of the past presidents of ANPD and was actually the longest serving president for this organization, completing 5 years in the role. Donna Wright has worked for the past 21 years as a consultant at Creative Health Care Management, which is an international consulting organization in Minneapolis, MN. Donna works with organizations all over the United States and the world to improve care and support professional development.


1. What are the significant professional milestones in your career journey?



DW: To be very honest, my most significant milestones have come not from the positive centered moments but instead from the frustrations of life and work. I remember very clearly one week in my role as a professional development specialist (back in the 1990s, we were called inservice nurse/staff development instructor). The central educators and quality improvement folks were gathered around, reviewing infection control outcomes. And yes, we were having nosocomial problems. So we all decided we needed to do handwashing reviews with each department. You know, lining up people at the sink to talk to them about handwashing and watch them do the skill. Our educator team covered the whole interdisciplinary organization. We all divided up the departments. I got several assignments, including the physician group. That night, I lie awake in bed and thought about my assignment. Was I really going to gather all the doctors around me by the sink and say, "Let me review your handwashing technique?" I swallowed hard and knew there had to be a better way to think about this. The goal was admirable, but the way we were approaching competencies as educators made me crazy. That fire still burns in me today to make every action we do as NPD practitioners meaningful and purpose-driven. This concept then becomes the center of my competency model.


2. How have you seen the specialty of NPD grow/evolve/change during your career?



DW: I love that we have evolved from educators to nursing professional development practitioners. Educator denotes an action or intervention. The NPD practitioner always has the goal and purpose in mind. It even helps me justify that sometimes my role is to clearly state, "Education is not always the answer." To truly develop people, we need to dedicate our actions to the right things that will create change and outcomes, not just teaching.


3. What do you see as significant trends or gaps in NPD practice from your perspective as an expert in competency assessment?



DW: As NPD practitioners, we are called to be change agents. This requires clarity and courage. These are not mere notions, but actual competency skill sets. It requires us to utilize fully our critical thinking skills with bold needs and articulation. A nurse may be given a physician order to give a certain dose of pain medication. Our role as professional nurses is to review that order, think about the patient and situation, and carry out, clarify or challenge respectfully the given order for the benefit of the patient. A nurse would never just say, "I knew this order was dangerous, but what can I do? The doctor ordered it. So, I just gave it to the patient."


I believe the role of the NPD practitioner is very similar. Many times, we are told what to do by others who give an organizational order-like "create a mandatory competency for everyone." Even though we know this intervention will not achieve our goal and maybe even distract from the real issue that is causing patient harm, we comply and just do what we are told. I look forward to our future as we understand more clearly our advocacy role to professional development and patient outcomes. I see us becoming the guardians to clarity and sanity in what often becomes a very chaotic healthcare world.


4. What insights can you share related to the value of NPD in healthcare organizations now and in the future?



DW: The NPD practitioner is often at the center of just about everything in health care. This can be overwhelming and daunting at times. The more clarity we have in our role and how we influence people and organizations to change help us succeed. The NPD standards over the years have helped us shape our focus and our actions. Every new and seasoned NPD practitioner should be familiar with these standards. They will guide you and your NPD team in every action you take and shape you in your daily work. I really believe the NPD practitioner is one of the most influential roles in healthcare today. Whether you choose to use that influence or not, or how you choose to use it, is up to you.


5. What advice do you have for NPD practitioners in the context of today's healthcare and learning environments?



DW: ANPD will always be one of our greatest resources in our role as NPD practitioners. Our professional association (for any specialty) is a place to ground ourselves. It gives us a gathering of like-minded people to help us clarify our world and ourselves. It gives us a place to know we are not alone. And I truly believe that, within these connections, we can solve any problem and create amazing new futures beyond our wildest dreams. Stay involved. Participate and create the future with our fellow NPD practitioners.