Development of clinical competence – a longitudinal survey of nurse practitioner students
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionBMC Nursing. 2021, 20 (1), 1-15. 10.1186/s12912-021-00627-x
Background In order to achieve a sustainable standard of advanced clinical competence for nurse practitioners leading to a credible role, it is important to investigate the development of clinical competence among nurse practitioner students. Aim The aim of the present study is to analyse the development of nurse practitioner students’ self-assessed clinical competence from the beginning of their education to after completion of their clinical studies. Design The study involved the application of a longitudinal survey design adhering to STROBE guidelines. Methods The participants consisted of 36 registered nurses from a nurse practitioner programme at a Norwegian university. The Professional Nurse Self-Assessment Scale II was used for data collection during the period August 2015 to May 2020. Results The students developed their clinical competence the most for direct clinical practice. Our findings are inconclusive in terms of whether the students developed clinical competence regarding consultation, coaching and guidance, and collaboration. However, they do indicate a lack of development in some aspects of clinical leadership. The students with the lowest level of clinical competence developed their clinical competence regarding direct clinical practice significantly more than the students with the highest level of clinical competence. The differences between students with high and low levels of clinical competence were levelled out during their education. Thus, the students as a whole became a more homogenous group after completion of their clinical studies. Previous work experience in primary healthcare was a statistically significant, yet minor, predictor of the development of clinical competence. Conclusion Our findings indicate that the students developed their clinical competence for direct clinical practice in accordance with the intended learning outcomes of the university’s Master’s programme and international standards for nurse practitioners. It is imperative that the clinical field supports nurse practitioners by facilitating extended work-task fits that are appropriate to their newly developed clinical competence. We refrain from concluding with a recommendation that prior clinical work experience should be an entry requirement for nurse practitioner programmes. However, we recommend an evaluation of the nurse practitioner education programme with the aim of investigating whether the curriculum meets the academic standards of clinical leadership expected in advanced level of nursing.