Nursing Professional Development (2024)


Professional development as a specialty of nursing practice is defined by standards, based on research, and critical to quality patient and organizational outcomes. The specialty of nursing professional development (NPD) has evolved over the years. The first educational focus in nursing started with establishing the first national nursing organization, the American Society of Superintendents for Training School Nurses, in 1893. In 1971, the American Nurses Association (ANA) established the Council on Continuing Education, and in 1974, Helen Tobin, often referred to as the "Godmother of Staff Development," published The Process of Staff Development: Components for Change. The first standards related to nursing professional development were the Standards for Continuing Education in Nursing, also published in 1974. The Journal for Nurses in Staff Development (now known as the Journal for Nurses in Professional Development) was first published in 1985, and in 1989 Belinda Puetz spearheaded the establishment and incorporation of the National Nursing Staff Development Organization (NNSDO). NNSDO became the Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD) in 2012. ANPD's mission is toadvance quality health care by defining and promoting nursing professional development practice. The goal of ANPD is to beacknowledged as the expert voice, advocate, and leading resource for nursing professional development practice.

Maloney and Woolfordedescribed the history of nursing professional development, reflecting on the past, present, and future.[1] The article outlined the accomplishments and strategic focus of the specialty from 2010-2018. The major pillars of focus of the 2016 ANPD strategic plan were NPD role delineation (changed to role clarity), managing transitions, leadership, and ANPD value proposition. These were reaffirmed with the 2018 strategic plan. The 2021-2023 strategic plan, which can be found on the ANPD website, outlines three key priorities: maintain the position as a strong organization, partner with other organizations, and define and advocate for the NPD role.[2] Overall goals for each of these priorities included: 1) ANPD will continue to thrive as a strong organization; 2) ANPD will build alliances with outside organizations (healthcare and others) that generate an advantageous return on investment for ANPD and its members; 3) ANPD will strategically position itself to advocate for the NPD specialty and provide members with resources, evidence, and research that equip them to demonstrate the value of their role. This will help prepare NPD practitioners for the future.

Starting in the 1990s, there was a tremendous increase in NPD activities and publications ANPD published the latest Nursing Professional Development Scope and Standards of Practice in 2022. This edition defines nursing professional development as "a nursing practice specialty that improves the professional practice and role competence of nurses and other healthcare personnel by facilitating ongoing learning, change, and role competence and growth with the intention of improving population health through indirect care." (p. 16). The 2016 edition of the standards introduced the concepts of interprofessional continuing education and interprofessional collaborative practice, as well as the need for evidence-based practice (EBP). The 2022 version included NPD practice judgment and population health as it described current practice and examined trends to forecast the future of the NPD specialty.

Issues of Concern

Critical updates and changes in the 2022 standards can be found in the StatPearls article on Nursing Professional Development Standards. The scope of practice for the NPD practitioner reflects the changing landscape in healthcare. The NPD scope of practice defines the who, what, where, when, why, and how that drive nursing professional development practice. It is reflected in the updated NPD practice systems model, which includes inputs, throughputs, and outputs. All NPD activities occur in the context of interprofessional practice and learning environments. NPD practitioners continuously engage in environmental scanning to ascertain internal and external opportunities and challenges within the organization.

Evolving trends in healthcare and nursing education have influenced NPD practice. There is a continued emphasis on interprofessional education, collaborative practice, and EBP. Due to the various positions that focus on education, there is a need for role clarity for NPD practitioners. Differences between NPD practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, academic clinical nurse educators, and academic nurse educators are outlined in the updated standards. Other trends affecting NPD practice include longer life expectancy, burgeoning patient technology, healthy practice, learning environments, and global events.

NPD practice changed focus during the pandemic, transitioning from in-person to virtual educational delivery formats. One strategy was described by Reid et prepare NPD practitioners to teach in a virtual environment.[3] They had a transition-into-practice program that had to be taught virtually, and many NPD practitioners identified they had little experience teaching in a virtual format. The organization developed a blended learning program to assist NPD practitioners in facilitating learning in a virtual environment.

Staffing redeployment during COVID was an issue during the pandemic. Several approaches to address this were published. Fox and Richterdescribed how their NPD practitioners were split into three teams to meet the demand for the orientation and training of frontline staff. One team was responsible for the orientation of new hire employees and travel nurses.[4] Another team trained staff for a different role or unit due to the low census in their own unit. The third team was responsible for real-time education and support of all staff the in the clinical units. They identified this as a hat trick, which is when a single player achieves three goals in a single game. The NPD team achieved three goals to meet the demands for ongoing education and training of all staff.

Another approach to surge staffing was identified by Kelley et al.[5]Their organization changed from primary nursing to a team nursing model and introduced the use of RN extenders and senior/graduate nurses for each level of care environment. RN extenders had to have at least twelve months of clinical experience, no corrective action in the last year, and completion of competencies in their current clinical setting. These employees assisted in monitoring changes in patient status, performing nursing tasks, providing patient education, documenting care, and reporting back to the RN team leader. Senior and graduate nurses with and without a professional RN license were also used. Many state boards of nursing initiated emergency care guidelines that allowed nursing students to assist in staffing without violating the state nursing practice act.

NPD practitioners support the transition of nurses and other healthcare team members across learning and practice environments. With the new practice arenas come new roles for nurses. The Future of Nursing Report from the Institute of Medicine challenged nurses to assume new and expanded roles to help meet the evolving needs of the healthcare system. There are now nurse navigators, health coaches, community health workers, and many new roles in nursing informatics, telehealth, and patient safety. Nursing as a profession and associations such as ANPD are working on ways to increase diversity in the field. We need to have diverse practitioners to help meet the needs of the diverse population.

Return on investment is another important concept impacting NPD. Ongoing restricting and healthcare changes continue to reshape how healthcare organizations operate and how they measure success. Return on investment (ROI) is a key factor in the viability of any organization. NPD practitioners must establish and articulate the financial and clinical impact of NPD practice through ROI data.[6][7]NPD practitioners can use this method to evaluate education priorities and allocate resources based on statistically relevant data. Demonstration of ROI allows NPD practitioners to compete for limited resources. An updated known cost of outcomes table was included in the 2018 article. This helps NPD practitioners to identify the financial value of improved outcomes and calculate economic impact. This table is updated regularly, and a 2020 copy can be found on the ANPD website.

Research in the field of NPD has increased. Harper et al.detailed the work of a task force charged with redesigning ANPD’s small research grant process.[8] One of the purposes of this group was to develop a cost-effective framework to advance the scientific research base of the specialty. They identified a spirit of inquiry approach, defined as a consistent, intentional, and applied professional curiosity, as a key element of modern NPD practice (p. 119). They collected data from randomly selected ANPD convention attendees using a round table discussion from members of the Journal for Nurse in Professional Development editorial board and included an open-ended question of the ANPD annual convention evaluation beginning in 2016. Ten spirit of inquiry areas identified were:

  1. Determination of strategies that significantly increase engagement of learners

  2. Types of technology that enhance learning

  3. Development of learning outcome metrics

  4. Strategies to sustain behavior change pursuant to NPD intervention

  5. Strategies that result in successful career and care continuum transitions

  6. NPD practices and/or programs that significantly impact outcomes (residencies, onboarding, competency management, life support, etc.)

  7. Examine models (Lean, Six Sigma, QI, etc.) that create more efficient and effective NPD practices a. Time studies b. Interruptions

  8. Examine stakeholders’ views that impact the perceived value of NPD practice/role/influence a. Chief nursing officers b. Managers c. Chief financial officers d. Academic educators

  9. Factors that increase “buy-in” of stakeholders & target audiences

  10. Strategies that influence the adoption of interprofessional development (pp. 121-122)

Numerous studies have been conducted in these focus areas. Phillips et al.described a longitudinal, quasi-experimental sepsis simulation pilot study on the impact of boost methodology on nurse knowledge retention.[9] Boost methodology was used to stimulate the recall of information. Boosts can be done in various ways, including question/answer, scenarios, video clips, and/or statements that connect learners to previously learned content. Their findings suggested that boost methodology may impact nurse knowledge retention. This could have implications for healthcare organizations by decreasing the need to reeducate staff and decreasing the burden of traditional education formats.

Harper et al.conducted a study on preceptor practice in 2020. ANPD used a nonexperimental, cross-sectional, descriptive design using the practice analysis method to identify the roles and competencies essential to preceptor practice.[10] Using the Ulrich Precepting Model to identify the roles, knowledge, and activities necessary for preceptor practice, they surveyed 3,623 preceptors. Within the spheres of quality, safety, and evidence, the Ulrich model identified seven roles of preceptors within the context of nursing and the broader healthcare system. The seven roles identified were: teacher/coach, role model, leader/influencer, facilitator, socialization agent, evaluator, and protector. The study validated the seven roles and compared those roles with the NPD practitioner roles identified in the standards.

The capacity of the NPD leader has expanded. The value of NPD relies heavily on the ability to show value across the board in ways that benefit the entire organization. There is a StatPearls article specific to the NPD leadership role in advancing the specialty practice of NPD. An important responsibility of the NPD leader is to help develop a department plan that supports the organization’s mission, vision, and strategic goals. Leadership is not an organizational position but a personal, professional behavior. The Association for Nursing Professional Development has both a Leadership Academy and an Evidence-Based Practice Academy to help NPD practitioners develop leadership skills.

As with any specialty, certification is available for NPD practitioners. In addition to the basic certification in nursing professional development offered through the American Nurse Credentialing Center, there is also advanced certification in nursing professional development offered through the Competency and Credentialing Institute. The advanced certification is a portfolio-based certification.[11]A description of the development of this certification can be found in the article by Harper et al.[12]

Clinical Significance

Nursing professional development (NPD) practitioners play a critical role in preparing healthcare personnel for current and future roles and helping individuals cope with an ever-changing healthcare environment. They facilitate the professional role development of nurses and other healthcare personnel, encouraging interprofessional education and collaboration. They become champions of scientific inquiry by promoting the generation and dissemination of new knowledge and the use of evidence to influence NPD practice, guide clinical practice, and improve patient care. They actively support, promote, and demonstrate NPD as a practice specialty.

Nursing, Allied Health, and Interprofessional Team Interventions

The focus of NPD practice is the healthcare consumer/partner. All NPD activities occur in the context of interprofessional practice and learning environments. NPD practitioners work with members of the interprofessional team to achieve desired outcomes. The outputs of NPD practice include learning, change, and professional role competence and growth, which help achieve the desired outcome of optimal care and population growth.



Maloney P, Woolforde L. Ninety Years and Counting: The Past, Present, and Future of the Nursing Professional Development Specialty. J Nurses Prof Dev. 2019 Mar/Apr;35(2):56-65. [PubMed: 30829908]


Callicutt D, Walker M. Association for Nursing Professional Development's 2023 Strategic Plan Is Final! 2021 Jul-Aug 01J Nurses Prof Dev. 37(4):237-238. [PubMed: 34191467]


Reid R, Bradshaw-Scharbach S, DeVolt M, Hartly M, Luttrell J, Mangum-Williams M, Ogilvie L, Parazin J, Scortzaru M. Preparing Nursing Professional Development Practitioners for Virtual Facilitation. 2022 Mar-Apr 01J Nurses Prof Dev. 38(2):76-81. [PubMed: 34482331]


Fox NM, Richter SM. The Nursing Professional Development Practitioner During a Pandemic: Achieving the Hat Trick. 2021 May-Jun 01J Nurses Prof Dev. 37(3):E5-E9. [PMC free article: PMC8115736] [PubMed: 33961369]


Kelley C, Sitzer V, Neumann K, Williams J, Ecoff L. Implementation and Evaluation of a Healthcare System's Approach to Surge Staffing and Training. 2022 Jul-Aug 01J Nurses Prof Dev. 38(4):215-222. [PubMed: 34120120]


Opperman C, Liebig D, Bowling J, Johnson CS, Harper M. Measuring Return on Investment for Professional Development Activities: A Review of the Evidence. J Nurses Prof Dev. 2016 May-Jun;32(3):122-9. [PubMed: 27187826]


Opperman C, Liebig D, Bowling J, Johnson CS. Measuring Return on Investment for Professional Development Activities: 2018 Updates. J Nurses Prof Dev. 2018 Nov/Dec;34(6):303-312. [PubMed: 30048386]


Harper MG, Warren JI, Bradley D, Bindon SL, Maloney P. Nursing Professional Development's Spirit of Inquiry Focus Areas. J Nurses Prof Dev. 2019 May/Jun;35(3):118-124. [PubMed: 30418353]


Phillips JM, Feldman K, Miller PS, Galuska L. The Impact of Boost Methodology on Nurse Knowledge Retention: A Longitudinal, Quasi-Experimental Sepsis Simulation Pilot Study. 2021 Jan-Feb 01J Nurses Prof Dev. 37(1):3-11. [PubMed: 33109917]


Harper MG, Ulrich B, Whiteside D, Warren JI, MacDonald R. Preceptor Practice: Initial Results of a National Association for Nursing Professional Development Study. 2021 May-Jun 01J Nurses Prof Dev. 37(3):154-162. [PubMed: 33961360]


Di Leonardi BC. Advanced Nursing Professional Development Certification: Get Ready! 2021 May-Jun 01J Nurses Prof Dev. 37(3):129-130. [PubMed: 33961357]


Harper MG, Brunt B, Holtschneider ME. Advanced Certification in Nursing Professional Development: An Idea Whose Time Has Come. J Nurses Prof Dev. 2022 Aug 22; [PubMed: 35997643]

Nursing Professional Development (2024)


What is considered professional development in nursing? ›

This edition defines nursing professional development as "a nursing practice specialty that improves the professional practice and role competence of nurses and other healthcare personnel by facilitating ongoing learning, change, and role competence and growth with the intention of improving population health through ...

How can nurses improve professional development? ›

Nurse leaders have the responsibility of providing resources and support needed by nurses to promote professional development. Some ways to achieve this are through motivational interviewing, bringing education to nurses, encouraging shared governance, promoting self-care, and creating a mentorship program.

How do you answer 3 ways in which this individual can improve his her performance at work as a nurse? ›

Three Ways to Be a Better Nurse
  • Be people-oriented instead of task-oriented. ...
  • Focus on communication and connection. ...
  • Hone your teaching skills. ...
  • COMMIT to improve patient care with an exciting travel nursing career.

What is professional development for nurses and why it's so important? ›

Ongoing professional development can also help you advance in your career as you can move into new positions where you can lead, coach, manage, and mentor others. Continuing professional development refers to any activity that contributes to your professional development as a nurse or healthcare professional.

What is one example of professional development? ›

Learning new abilities, earning certifications, gaining more experience in a specific field, moving forward in your company, and pursuing any other career aspirations are all examples of professional development goals.

What are the five components of professional development? ›

Regardless, there are always 5 elements that every professional development plan should include. They are assessment, goals, resources, strategy, and evaluation.

How can I improve my professional development skills? ›

These eight strategies can help you to prioritize your professional development, even when you're busy:
  1. Focus on objectives.
  2. Manage obstacles and distractions.
  3. Set boundaries.
  4. Make learning a habit.
  5. Make every minute count.
  6. Learn at your best.
  7. Find your own learning style.
  8. Collaborate with others.

What is the most important characteristic for a professional nurse to develop? ›


One of the most important qualities of a good nurse is compassion. In their career, nurses will see patients suffer. Beyond simply offering a solution, they must be able to express compassion for patients and their families.

What development activities a nurse might consider for future professional growth? ›

If your workplace offers in-service classes, workshops or job shadowing opportunities, sign up and attend. In-service training can be a great way to hone your nursing skills, learn new industry practices or develop knowledge about a specialized nursing field.

What are 3 things that need improvement to increase professional performance? ›

Top 3 ways to improve your performance at work
  • Be eager to learn. Maintain and fulfil your desire to know more about your profession. ...
  • Build relationships. Whether it's your team member, team leader or department head, stay updated with everyone's contribution and actively indulge in discussions. ...
  • Have a positive attitude.
Apr 4, 2023

What are examples of quality improvement in nursing? ›

Examples include reducing medical errors, increasing staff communication, implementing evidence-based practices, and upgrading discharge planning.

How to answer 3 areas that need improvement to increase professional performance? ›

How to Answer “What Areas Need Improvement?”
  1. Be Honest With Yourself. ...
  2. Give an Example. ...
  3. Show What You're Doing to Improve in Those Areas. ...
  4. Stay Positive. ...
  5. Steer Clear of Fake and Cliche Answers. ...
  6. Avoid Talking About Core Skills and Competencies. ...
  7. Example 1. ...
  8. Example 2.
Feb 1, 2023

What are the 3 major roles of the professional nurse? ›

Nurses' roles range from direct patient care and case management to establishing nursing practice standards, developing quality assurance procedures, and directing complex nursing care systems.

What is your professional development plan? ›

A professional development plan documents the goals, required skill and competency development, and objectives a staff member will need to accomplish in order to support continuous improvement and career development.

What is the main role of a nursing professional development specialist? ›

Nursing professional development specialists identify unmet learning needs, teach updated best practices, develop educational plans, measure results, and improve nursing outcomes.

What is professional development in healthcare? ›

It can also be considered a system for maintaining, broadening and improving knowledge and skills through one's professional life. Continuing professional development strives to develop effective practice and promote effective change now. An example is learning new and complex technology for specific health conditions.

What includes professional development? ›

Professional development is gaining new skills through continuing education and career training after entering the workforce. It can include taking classes or workshops, attending professional or industry conferences, or earning a certificate to expand your knowledge in your chosen field.

What is considered professional development on a resume? ›

Professional development isn't just taking classes

However, taking courses is not the only way to improve yourself professionally. Some examples of professional development include: Completing formal degree programs. Acquiring certifications or other credentials.


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