ATTRIBUTES OF A COMPETENT NURSE
Defining Professional Competence and Attributes of a Competent Nurse
Professional competence refers to the prudent use of knowledge, communication, skills, clinical critical thinking, values, emotions and reflection in all situations in the course of professional practice for the benefit of the individuals and community where an individual works(Roberta, 2012). Indeed the public reserves the right to require nurses to exhibit professional competence when practicing in their profession. The American Nurses Association underscores the significance of professional competence and has instituted regulatory measures to ensure that minimum standards for safe practice are met. The particular elements which are often the yardstick for competent nursing include professionalism, being ethical and adherence to legal principles.
Competence and Professionalism
Specifically, the attributes of nurses who demonstrate professionalism include knowledge, accountability, spirit of inquiry, autonomy, being innovative and visionary, advocacy and collegiality(ibid). To begin with, knowledge, in this context, refers to the possession of theoretical and academic resources with regard to clinical care, administration, policy, research and education.
Secondly, the spirit of inquiry refers to the ability of the nurse to approach practice from an inquisitive perspective. In this regard, the inquisitive nurse will have an open mind especially with regard to new knowledge and improvement in practice. Additionally, it also means using critical thinking skills to make decisions and solve problems inherent in practice.
Accountability refers to the willingness to accept to be answerable to one’s actions. For nurses to be accountable, they must be ready to do the right thing every time. Nurses who are not accountable lose credence and cannot be trusted with responsibilities. Another related attribute is autonomy, meaning the ability to work and think independently. Nurses who are responsible will not need to be followed so as to complete their proportion of work, but rather work without supervision. Autonomous nurses have the ability to self-govern.
Another attribute is advocacy. Advocacy means to speak out for the patient or to support decisions and actions that promote their welfare. Professional nurses understand the needs of their patient and have their best interest at heart. Most of the time, the nurse will not consider the obstacles or challenges to speaking out for the patients but would ensure that the patient is always protected. Advocacy is an attribute which sits at the core of nursing professional practice.
Another element of professionalism is innovation and being visionary. Nurses are able to generate new ideas and solve problems which they meet creatively. Innovative nurses always look at how practice can be improved to be more satisfactory to the patient. Being visionary means being prudent and being able to consider the prospects of circumstances beyond the present. Innovation and being visionary are professional attributes which improve nursing practice.
Ethics and professionalism
Ethics refers to a set of beliefs and behaviors that are used to decide the right or wrong dimensions of alternatives when making judgments or actions directed to others( Ruth, 2006). Nursing ethics is a reasoned enquiry and reflections on the moral dimensions of practices that affects the lives either of patients, staff or the society in general.
Legal principles and competent nurses
Within the healthcare professions, there is regulation and only particular, controlled procedures or acts that are considered to be appropriate for nursing practice. It is important that mere ability to perform a procedure is not confused with the authorization to do procedures. It is therefore important that nurses remain strictly disciplined within the scope of their practice. When one performs a procedure beyond his cope, he is exposing himself to legal tussles which sometimes end up damaging their reputation( Nursing College of Ontario, 2011).
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