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  1. Mee, Cheryl L. RN, BC, CMSRN, MSN

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When I worked in acute care from the late'70s through the mid-'90s, I had unswerving confidence in my colleagues' knowledge and ability to provide quality nursing care. I believe the feeling was mutual. The nurses worked as a team, learning from one another and helping us all stay on top of our game.

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The results of one of our recent informal polls, however, suggest that confidence within nursing teams has gone the way of nurses' caps. Asked online whether they felt their peers were competent, an astonishing 52% of 1,410 nurses said no.1 The poll wasn't scientific, but I found the numbers startling-and so did many of you (see Letters on page 8).


After giving it some thought, I've reluctantly concluded that the survey respondents may be telling us something we need to hear. Maintaining a high level of competence has never been more challenging than it is today. In my current role, I see new patient-care guidelines and technologic advances emerging at mind-numbing speed. For example, as this issue was going to press, new guidelines on heart disease in women and staging pressure ulcers came out. Trying to keep up with all this new information while working can be a daunting task.


A competent nurse has the demonstrated knowledge, skills, and ability to correctly care for patients. If the nursing leaders where you work aren't assessing and addressing staff learning needs, your team can get the ball rolling. Invite each nurse to list topics related to current practice that seem lacking. Then the team members can compare lists, set priorities, and prepare a final list of learning needs, such as following the latest guidelines to stage pressure ulcers when you chart wound care.


Once the team identifies and prioritizes learning needs, take the list to your nurse leaders and educators. Ask for support through educational sessions and some paid time off for learning. Emphasize that improved staff development not only benefits nurses and patients, but it may also improve nurse retention and boost the facility's bottom line.


We can't turn back the clock. But as nurses, we still help protect, promote, and optimize health; prevent illness; and alleviate suffering.2 To do it well, each nurse on the team must stay abreast of current information. Pulling together builds individual skills, strengthens the team, and produces better patient outcomes and happier nurses. It takes some extra effort, but we owe it to the public and to ourselves.


Cheryl L. Mee, RN, BC, CMSRN, MSN


Editor-in-Chief, Nursing2007




1. Survey responses: Are the nurses you work with competent? Nursing2007. 37(2):34, February 2007. [Context Link]


2. American Nurses Association. Nursing's Social Policy Statement, 2nd edition. Silver Spring, Md., 2003. [Context Link]