1. Durkin, Gregory J. MEd, RN-BC

Article Content

Area of Expertise:

Needs assessment, competency, certification preparation, evaluation, instructional design



I have worked in nursing professional development since 1990 in tertiary care, academic, and public health settings in three different states. I am currently the Manager of Nursing Education at Boston Children's Hospital, where I oversee all aspects of nursing professional development for over 2,500 nurses. I am a faculty for the ANPD Certification Preparation Review Course, an editorial review board member for JNPD, and author/coauthor on several publications relating to nursing professional development.


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



GD: Beyond just learning and growing through the various positions I have held across my career, I'd say there are four major milestones: obtaining a master's degree in education, becoming certified in Nursing Professional Development, getting involved in ANPD activities, and lastly, assuming a management position in professional development.


Advanced education was the first milestone, I started graduate school in 1993, and there were not master's in nursing education programs in my area, so I decided to obtain my degree in the School of Education at Wayne State University. The program was very interprofessional and the emphasis was on educational theory, instructional design, and technology and gave me an incredibly strong foundation of skills to develop over my career. I had found my niche, and it cemented my passion for nursing and interprofessional education, which then led me to positions in HR, universities, public health associations, and tertiary care settings.


I admit to being slow to get on the certification bus. I was resistant at first, but after attending several ANDP (then NNSDO) conventions, the desire to achieve certification grew, and in 2009, I was certified. This had an unexpected effect of giving me a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, fulfillment, and pride. Practically overnight, I became an evangelist for becoming certified, and after licensure and advanced education, I view certification as one of the most important things one can do.


Certification also had the effect of waking in me a desire to contribute on a national level through ANPD. A call went out looking for instructors to teach the Certification Preparation Review Course; I applied and was accepted and have been teaching the course for nearly a decade now. Helping other professional development practitioners is a singular source of professional joy. I have participated in many different activities over the last decade on behalf of the organization, serving on focus groups, helping to analyze technology survey data, coauthoring a Cert Prep study guide twice, and of course teaching. I have presented three podium presentations, one on needs assessment and two on competency development. Concurrent to these activities, I was approached to join the editorial board for JNPD, and as of January 2019, I have reviewed 96 manuscripts for publication!


While doing all that, I continued to work full-time at Boston Children's Hospital, championing a change in job title to professional development specialist in 2010 and creating a second-level position of Senior Professional Development specialist in 2015. In 2016, I was offered a position as Manager of Nursing Education. I consider myself to be the oldest living management trainee and manage a staff of five: four professional development specialists and a web training specialist. My role transition from a practitioner to a manager has been challenging, frustrating, and thrilling. It has encouraged me to be more outcomes driven and strategic, as well as giving me a platform to help lift the practice of professional development in my own organization.


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



GD: I think the most substantial change I've seen over the past three decades is the recognition in ourselves that we are a specialty practice just as valuable as clinical work and the increased pride that comes with that. The evolution in our role has also been tremendous. Our current scope and standards truly set the bar for our performance and demand an acknowledgement from the greater nursing community that we work according to dedicated knowledge and expertise that is instrumental in advancing patient care.


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



GD: I regularly say that professional development practitioners have one of the toughest jobs in healthcare-to orient a less prepared hire to take care of a more acutely ill patient population in a shorter period of time. Tertiary care settings are becoming giant intensive care units, and patients who do not require that level of care are going to community hospitals or home sicker than ever before. We all are feeling the increased acuity. The rapid progression of clinical care and technologies is at a pace that undergraduate programs won't be able to keep up with. The things nurses are doing and experiencing are dramatically different from even 3-5 years ago. At the same time, the cost and time pressures to get new hires ready to practice independently are real. Nursing professional development practitioners have a mandate to figure out how to manage entry level transitions to meet these demands.


Related to that is the dramatic information overload that nurses are feeling. From practice changes, to policy updates, to regulatory requirements, the constant feed of new and different practices is difficult to keep up with. NPD practitioners need to figure out how to communicate and educate in a way that meets the demands for change with the ability of staff to absorb it all.


The other major trend I see is the increased acknowledgment that patient care is a team effort and the need to develop new interprofessional ways of working is huge. NPD practitioners are instrumental in using systems theory and assessing gaps in practice in order to develop interprofessional teams.


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



GD: NPD practitioners are visible and respected for their contributions and, as such, are regularly called upon to participate in activities that may seem outside our scope-quality improvement, high reliability, system-wide implementations, performance assessment, on and on. We need to accept these opportunities and use them strategically as a way to position ourselves to organizations as the experts in education. Someone said to me once a long time ago, "if people stop asking you to take on new work, go home because it means they no longer think you can do it." Due to our close proximity to patient care and our ability to work with multiple professions, NPD practitioners are perfectly positioned to influence positive changes in healthcare delivery.


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



GD: My advice for NPD practitioners is multi-faceted: get advanced degrees, get certified, work interprofessionally, publish your work, learn how to advocate and influence, be outcomes focused, and be strategic with use of resources. Most of all, have a "long game" outlook, be tenacious, and constantly work towards creating the future you want.