1. Dickerson, Pamela S. PhD, RN, NPD-BC, FAAN

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Advocacy is defined as "the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal" (Merriam Webster, n.d.). The Nursing Professional Development: Scope and Standards of Practice (Harper & Maloney, 2016, p. 59) further defines advocate for the nursing professional development (NPD) specialty as an "NPD role in which the NPD practitioner actively supports, promotes, and demonstrates nursing professional development as a nursing practice specialty." Importantly, this word requires action. Advocacy is not a belief or a value that you hold in your head or your heart-it is an "act" or a "process" requiring that the individual shares information with others in support of something in which the individual believes.

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NPD is a recognized specialty within the practice of nursing. However, NPD is often not identified as a specialty, even within nursing, let alone outside our profession. Few student nurses graduate from school with the goal in mind of becoming an NPD practitioner. Think about your own experience. How did you learn about the NPD specialty? When did you become an NPD practitioner? Was it by choice or by default? What have you come to appreciate and value about this role? How can you be an advocate for the work that we do and the outcomes we achieve?


In the Nursing Professional Development: Scope and Standards of Practice (Harper & Maloney, 2016), Standard 12 (leadership) and Standard 16 (mentorship/advancing the profession) address expectations of NPD practitioners in relation to advocacy. Leadership competencies that support advocacy include collaborating with stakeholders, assuming leadership roles, influencing decision-making bodies in support of professional development initiatives, and providing evidence of the value of NPD with data reflecting the department's value to the organization's strategic goals. This value might be demonstrated through evidence related to such factors as return on investment, return on expectations, individual and/or organizational quality and excellence recognition, improved outcomes, or successful recruitment and retention initiatives.


Mentorship/advancing the profession competencies include identifying ways NPD contributes to the organization; sharing knowledge and skills with others; supporting initiatives that recognize excellence in achieving the organization's goals; collaborating with interprofessional colleagues; modeling expert practice; and advancing the profession through publications, presentations, and other initiatives like quality improvement or research.


These are great "on paper." How do you make them a reality in your own practice? First, look in the mirror. Assess your own practice and professional behaviors in relation to these competencies. Do you display energy and enthusiasm for your practice? Do you volunteer for opportunities to "share the word" about what the NPD practitioner and the NPD department do? Do you collect, analyze, and share data providing evidence of NPD work to executives within your organization? Do you refer to yourself as an "educator" or "staff development person" rather than an NPD practitioner? Are you certified in NPD? Remember that the definition of "advocate" includes action-what actions of yours demonstrate advocacy?


Next, think about your relationships with others in your practice environment. With your colleagues, do you look for ways you can contribute your NPD knowledge and skills to the work of the team? Do you look for ways to contribute to their professional development as well as your own? Nurturing and mentoring others to improve the overall work of the department will result in strong morale and cohesiveness within the department as well as better visibility of your department within the organization. When you plan educational activities, do you start by identifying practice gaps and the expected measurable outcome of the activity that will demonstrate that you are making a difference in improving practice? Do you guide planning committees in assessing evidence of need and planning interventions at the appropriate level to address the identified gap? Do you purposely select learner engagement strategies that support learning and empower learners to improve? Do you implement evaluation strategies that provide measurable evidence of the success of the activity? Activities like these have multiple benefits-they support development of quality professional education, they engage stakeholders, they provide evidence of achieving relevant outcomes, and they demonstrate the value of NPD to the organization. That's advocacy! An additional "perk" to this approach is that it helps you feel that you are contributing something important to the department, to your learners, to your organization, and to your own professional development. It's more than "just" developing a course or teaching a class.


Consider ways you interact with others outside your work environment. Do you ever have the opportunity to speak to student nurses, either individually or as a group? Faculty and professional associations often look for practicing nurses to share their own professional experiences. Volunteer to talk with students about nursing as a profession and, more specifically, about the role of NPD as a specialty practice and the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to professional development of individuals and organizations. This broadens the perspective of students about career options and reinforces the importance of continuing their education after graduation. It might also serve as a pipeline for succession planning in the NPD department!


There are opportunities to participate in local, regional, national, or international professional associations and activities that demonstrate advocacy for NPD. Are you a member of ANPD? Are you a member of a local affiliate of ANPD? If you are a member of other groups (either nursing or in your community), do you take advantage of the opportunity to share your work and the value you bring to the healthcare environment? Have you submitted an abstract to share your work at a local, regional, or national conference? Have you submitted a manuscript to publish the results of your NPD work? Sharing with others helps to support the growth of NPD and provides continuing evidence of our value.


Being an advocate requires action. The above questions and suggestions can guide you in developing an action plan for your own advocacy initiatives. Consider developing a checklist of the items that appeal to you. Identify action steps you plan to take, set a date for their accomplishment, and write one or two tactics you will implement to reach those goals. Advocacy helps to build NPD-and supports your own professional development, as well.




Harper M., Maloney P. (2016). Nursing professional development: Scope and standards of practice (3rd ed.). Association for Nursing Professional Development. [Context Link]


Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Advocacy. In http://Merriam-Webster.comDictionary. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from [Context Link]