1. Wilson, Chris MSN, RN-BC

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Chris Wilson is the Senior Director for Nursing Education and Professional Development at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She is also the immediate past president for the Association for Nursing Professional Development and a former director on the Board of Directors. Over the course of her nursing career, she has practiced in clinical staff nurse roles, as well as nurse manager and nursing professional development (NPD) roles. Her areas of interest and expertise include nursing leadership and NPD advocacy.


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



CW: I am one of those individuals who did not have a clear plan in mind when I embarked on my professional journey-more of a "say yes to the opportunities that emerge and see where it takes you" kind of career path. As with many nurses, the passion in my early career was for my clinical specialty. For me, that was as a pediatric nurse. I launched my career as a clinical staff nurse in a children's hospital. Quickly, my interests peaked for patient education and for staff education (in the form of precepting). I developed a deep appreciation for the power of those actions when done well. Early in my career, I (naively) said yes to the opportunity to become a manager for a pediatric unit. Little did I know that the ups and downs of that choice would provide one of the biggest professional learning and personal growth experiences of my adult life and lay the ground work for what came after. I was completely unprepared to lead but found myself in a situation of being blessed with strong leaders and mentors who guided me along the way and afforded me more opportunities than I probably deserved. Fast forward, after a return to school to earn my MSN, my first opportunity to test out a professional development role, a brief detour into pediatric homecare and another inpatient pediatric manager role, I eventually landed back in the world of NPD-this time, to stay. Beyond my immediate NPD roles, another one of those opportunities that came my way and ended up being career altering was the call for volunteers to be part of the work to review the Nursing Professional Development: Scope and Standards of Practice. At the time, the document had not been revised in over 10 years and was very outdated. The opportunity to work under the leadership of Dora Bradley and to connect with her and other committed practitioners opened my world to a more active role in National Nursing Staff Development Organization (now Association for Nursing Professional Development).


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



CW: My first NPD role (in the 1980s) was pretty exclusively centered around the learning facilitation role. The key responsibilities were orientation and inservice planning. I would say that, at the time, NPD as a specialty was in its early development and not fully recognized. The key requirement to be in the role was strong clinical expertise. The body of knowledge for NPD was minimal, and methods of training delivery were limited to live classroom. I contrast that with the current role for NPD practitioners. Clinical knowledge is still important, but a highly functioning NPD practitioner is adept at working with subject matter experts that can complement their role. The breadth of scope for the role is now so much more. Change agency, the ability to lead and manage projects, the demand for evidence and measurement of ROI and value, and the critical need for leadership skills have evolved over time and are now critical to the success of the NPD practitioner. We are much more than "just the educators." The development of NPD as a critical role in the organization is helping to shift it from being an elective or a "nice-to-have" service to a key role in support of organizational initiatives and priorities. We still have a long way to go, but we are well on our way and have a solid roadmap to get there.


3. From your perspective, what do you see as significant trends or gaps in nursing practice that NPD could address?



CW: One current issue in health care is the huge gap in addressing the demands on the healthcare team related to the mental health issues that are pervasive in our society. The needs of our patients and their families present themselves in every setting and create significant challenges for the healthcare teams that work with them. Is it ironic that these needs are escalating at the same time attention is growing for the issues of workplace burnout and incivility? I think that NPD has an opportunity to position itself as a key player in developing an approach to help members of the healthcare team increase their own effectiveness in working with clients (and peers) while keeping themselves safe and well. This can have a potential positive effect on the longevity of the workforce. We are positioned to be great partners working with mental health professionals and organizational leaders in meeting the needs of both patients/families and the teams we serve.


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



CW: The current healthcare environment is highly regulated, fast paced, complex, and rapidly changing. These factors present challenges and opportunities. NPD practitioners are especially skilled at assessing learning needs, identifying gaps, and finding new and effective methods to facilitate learning and change. Workforce issues, both addressing the needs of novice nurses and addressing evolving needs of staff based on new roles and practice settings, provide opportunities for NPD to make significant contributions. There is an increasing demand to be flexible and agile and to be able to mobilize resources to meet needs as they quickly arise as well as to be able to do intentional longer term planning.


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



CW: I think of this as the advice that I would give the younger version of myself! The complex and very demanding healthcare environment we work in creates opportunities for us all to contribute with our own specialty expertise. NPD practitioners must acknowledge their expertise and not be shy about speaking up about those things that they are best positioned to address. Sometimes that means slowing down a process to make sure the solution being put into place will address the problem. It can also mean speaking up when an educational plan being proposed may meet some minimal requirement but is not likely to create real value. I'd also remind myself to choose causes wisely. Once you've earned a seat at the table, you'll need to continue to prove your value even when you feel you have a full plate. To stay relevant, you must continue to establish your role in preventing and solving problems. Some of the most valuable skills you can develop are networking, listening, and communication skills-particularly the skills of communicating as a leader. Invest in yourself-you are worth taking care of.