Professional Development: A Path for the Ever-Improving Nurse

To meet regulatory and certification requirements and provide optimal care to patients, families and communities, continuing professional education and development is a career-long journey for practicing nurses.

The first cohorts of attendees to finish the Leadership Scholars Academy™ program in May 2021

From bridging knowledge gaps and meeting regulatory and certification requirements to providing optimal care to patients, families and communities, continuing professional education and development is a career-long journey for practicing nurses.

“Nurses can meet such requirements by participating in educational opportunities offered by employers, academic institutions, private entities, professional associations and social media platforms,” says Clair Millet, DNP, APRN, PHCNS-BC, Director of Faculty Development, CNE, and Entrepreneurial Enterprise, and Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing. “Some requirements can be met through collaboration as members of interprofessional health care teams. Whatever the format, a larger, more diverse nursing workforce will demand new ways to provide care and promote health based on evolving evidence-based practice.”

Meeting the Need for Nursing Professional Development

Continuing professional development for nurses is an integral part of the mission of the LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing and aligns with its strategic priorities. The school’s Nursing Continuing Professional Development (NCPD) Program is nationally accredited through the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation, and the school has more than 250 clinical affiliations.

“The goal of the Academy is to provide a transformational learning experience that further develops personal and professional leadership knowledge, skills and guidance critical for success in leadership roles.”

Clair Millet, DNP, APRN, PHCNS-BC

Within the program, School of Nursing leadership and faculty engage with clinical partners to assess both didactic and clinical needs that NCPD could support through program development, implementation and evaluation. Hospital leaders and other health care organizations often request the School of Nursing to provide educational and technical training for their employees.

While the target audience for NCPD programs is registered nurses, including advanced practice nurses, many other health care professionals engage in the school’s NCPD activities. Faculty members, clinical partners and students regularly participate in NCPD events. Educational activities that have been provided virtually have even afforded nurses from around the world opportunities to participate in the school’s events.

Two examples of NCPD programs meeting the needs of the school’s communities of interest are the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Procedure Workshops and the Leadership Scholars Academy™.

Equipping APRNs With Essential Skills

Leanne H. Fowler, DNP, MBA, APRN, AGACNP-BC, CNE, Program Director of Nurse Practitioner Programs, Program Coordinator of the Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Concentration, and Associate Professor of Clinical Nursing, has developed and implemented more than 30 hours of procedure courses for APRNs.

The courses include basic interpretation of imaging modalities for the head, chest, abdomen and bones; diagnosing acute and chronic cardiopulmonary disease with 12-lead electrocardiogram and point-of-care ultrasound applications to enhance the bedside exam; basic and difficult airway management; and other instruction about invasive procedures for patients with emergent or critical conditions.

“We have provided several procedure courses for acute care nurse practitioners (NPs) and NPs working within emergency departments in the Southeast region of the state,” Dr. Fowler says. “The courses have been requested by health care leaders and agencies in this region. The value of these programs to participating NPs includes the increased knowledge, skills and abilities required to seek hospital privileges and credentialing and sustain safe, quality patient outcomes. Additionally, for NPs, the capacity to perform an independent analysis of diagnostic images improves the practitioner’s diagnostic reasoning and the safety, efficiency, timeliness and quality of care provided to patients.”

Delays in health care may lead to poorer outcomes for the health system and the patient, so NPs equipped with the right skills when patients need them reduces burdens in time and cost to all stakeholders, Dr. Fowler explains.

Lifelong learning is critical so that NPs and other APRNs can provide safe, high-quality, timely, efficient and effective advanced nursing care.

“As diagnosing and prescribing medical providers, NPs must be abreast of the new literature, new research, new pharmacotherapies and new technologies that aim to improve patient outcomes and health care systems,” Dr. Fowler says. “And I encourage all nurses to remain curious and to remain current in the literature in an effort to provide the best care to patients.”

The School of Nursing’s new yearlong NP Fellowship Program will be administered by the NCPD Department, for which Dr. Fowler will serve as program coordinator. It will build upon the school’s academic NP program and will be managed on-site at the school’s academic-practice partners’ clinical agencies – community-based clinics, mental health clinics and hospitals.

“There are 36 hours of continuing nursing professional development built into the program, focused on the equitable care of patients within medically and mental health underserved areas,” Dr. Fowler says. “With more than 95% of the state of Louisiana being medically underserved for primary care and dental health needs, and 100% of the state being underserved in the area of mental health, the NP Fellowship program aims to enhance the capacity of the NP workforce with the skills these populations need most.”

Professional development for NP Fellows will focus on leadership skills, quality improvement, linguistically appropriate care, the impact racism has upon health equity, building self-efficacy, integrated health care models, interprofessional collaboration, and the prevention of secondary stress and personal burnout, among other topics.

NPs entering the workforce do not routinely have a structured onboarding or transition-to-practice process, when compared to physician or pharmacy colleagues. Professional development courses will be provided concurrently with supervised clinical practice that builds the Fellow to a full assignment of patients by the end of the program.

“NP Fellows completing transition-to-practice programs report increased confidence and satisfaction with their role and practice. The value added to the clinical agency is retaining a new NP with increased competency of caring for underserved populations, increased satisfaction and increased billing capacity,” Dr. Fowler says.

Executive Leadership Panel. University Medical Center – Denise Danna, DNS, RN, MEA-BC, CNE, FACHE; Ochsner Medical Center – Deborah Ford, MSN, RN; Children’s Hospital – Jamie Wiggins, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE; East Jefferson General Hospital – Ruby Brewer, MSN, MBA, RN; Jefferson Parish Schools – James Gray, EdD

Developing Leaders and Lifelong Learners

“We should all be lifelong learners. Learning how to be more effective, efficient and empathic leaders; to approach challenges as opportunities to improve and support positive change; and to be better health care providers and better people.”

Paula Kensler, PhD(c), DNP, MBA, RN

Nurses are leaders and change makers. But leadership skills require cultivation. The Leadership Scholars Academy is designed to provide participants with practical guidance in leadership competency.

It was developed by Demetrius Porche, DNS, PhD, ANEF, FACHE, FAANP, FAAN, Professor and Dean of the School of Nursing; Dr. Millet; Paula Kensler, PhD(c), DNP, MBA, RN, Program Director for the Clinical Nurse Leader Masters and Executive Nurse Leader DNP Programs and Instructor of Clinical Nursing; and Marie Adorno, PhD, APRN, CNS, RNC, CNE, Director of the PhD/DNS Program and Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing.

“The goal of the Academy is to provide a transformational learning experience that further develops personal and professional leadership knowledge, skills and guidance critical for success in leadership roles,” Dr. Millet says. “It is designed for current and emergent leaders in all settings.”

The Academy is a five-day workshop that explores evidence-based practices with leadership and management experts. Participants learn practical strategies from experienced leaders. The training was created based on requests from some of the School of Nursing’s clinical partners to assist in developing nurse leaders at their institutions.

Many participants in these workshops have returned for other NCPD activities at the school, like writing and publishing and grant-writing workshops.

“We should all be lifelong learners. Learning how to be more effective, efficient and empathic leaders; to approach challenges as opportunities to improve and support positive change; and to be better health care providers and better people,” Dr. Kensler says. “From a clinical standpoint, there are always new medicines, new procedures and new ways of enhancing teamwork and leadership.”

Dr. Kensler says the School of Nursing has been on “a journey toward realizing all of our full potential” when it comes to NCPD.

“As academic and practice partners work together more closely, these programs can help with evidence-based practice implementation and research, as well as assist leaders develop the knowledge and skill sets they require to be successful in their roles,” Dr. Kensler says. “A lot of learning happens by being together, sharing experiences, networking and developing relationships over time. We’ve had really good feedback so far for the Leadership Scholars Academy and other programs, and we’re excited to work with our partners on other programs to meet their needs.”

Anyone can make suggestions for future NCPD programs/topics by reaching out to members of the NCPD Department. Topic suggestions are also assessed from post-event evaluation forms submitted by participants, and School of Nursing faculty also complete needs assessment surveys to inform future faculty development activities.

“My favorite quote related to NCPD came from Florence Nightingale,” says Dr. Millet. “Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses…we must be learning all of our lives.”

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