Importance of Professional Development for Nurses

Professional development is essential for excellence in nursing Nurses work in a fast-paced, technical environment. They must make quick decisions about patient care and effectively communicate with other healthcare personnel. RNs with associate degrees can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at many colleges and universities in an online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. After graduation, professional development is an important component of a successful nursing career.

Professional Development for New and Established Nurses

New nurses typically have limited experience so they may have difficulties in their first permanent nursing position. Established nurses, on the other hand, understand their professional responsibilities, but they might have questions about how to become a nurse leader or advance their careers. Both types of nurses have to develop a way to achieve their career goals while abiding by nursing regulations. A Nursing Professional Development (NPD) specialist helps inexperienced nurses transition from school to practice, and they advise seasoned nurses on ways to stay current and advance their careers.

Professional Development for Nurses

Professional development is critical to the nursing profession because it emphasizes the importance of the following:

  • Continuing education.
  • Assessing learning needs.
  • Upholding competency.

Nurses should continue learning throughout their careers. They need to stay up-to-date on patient care, healthcare trends, treatments and techniques. NPD specialists are available to advise nurses about certification and licensing requirements, and they can also address a nurse’s need for additional instruction. Furthermore, NPD specialists ensure that the nurses under their supervision always demonstrate competency.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) began an initiative on “The Future of Nursing” in 2008. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) published “The Future of Nursing: Leading Changes, Advancing Health” report in 2010 based on the RWJF initiative. (The IOM changed its name to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in 2015.)

According to an ANPD white paper titled Role of Nursing Professional Development in Helping Meet Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing Recommendations, the 2010 IOM report emphasized the

importance of preparing students for a career in nursing at the associate, baccalaureate and graduate levels. Equally important, the committee recognized that the recruitment and retention of well prepared nurses across the healthcare continuum depends on providing nurses with opportunities to improve competencies and skill. The complexity of the current healthcare system requires increasing specialization of nurses. Nurses who are initially well prepared and continue to develop professionally throughout their career are a key factor in obtaining positive patient outcomes.

The report concluded that professional development is essential for excellence in healthcare. The report also stated that nurses who receive mentoring have a greater chance of becoming leaders in their profession.

The Job of Nursing Professional Development Specialists

A NPD specialist is also called a nurse educator. NPD specialists support nurses in every aspect of nursing. They are not only educators but also servant leaders, facilitators, change agents, researchers and mentors.

As a servant leader, NPD specialists respond to staff inquiries and concerns. They foster individual and team relationships to build a qualified healthcare community. When they work as facilitators, NPD specialists incorporate evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence for use in optimal patient care. A NPD change agent can decide to make an alteration in the healthcare setting by appraising the situation, planning a strategy and evaluating the outcome. NPD specialists keep staff informed by distributing nursing and clinical research found in literature or from collected data. A mentor NPD specialist consults nurses about ethical principles, improving skills and career advancement.

Where Do NPD Specialists Work?

Generally, most healthcare organizations employ NPD specialists to guide nurses in their professional nursing role. NPD specialists work in the following facilities:

  • Hospitals.
  • Long-term care facilities.
  • Public health centers.
  • Colleges and universities.
  • Outpatient clinics.

Supporting Professional Development for Nurses

The lack of participation in nursing professional development activities surprised nurse leaders at Medina Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio when the hospital merged with the Cleveland Clinic in 2009. According to an article titled Boosting Participation in Professional Development Activities, nurse leaders discovered that out of 250 nurses only 6 percent of them were enrolled in an RN to BSN program and only 6 percent pursued a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). The nurse leaders turned things around by encouraging nurses to work toward promotion and supporting their professional nursing role. The nurse leaders promoted continuing education and celebrated nursing staff accomplishments. Additionally, nurses expanded their knowledge and skills.

By 2013, there was a 57 percent increase in the number of certified nurses, and 65 nurses earned a promotion. In 2014, 19 percent of the nurses enrolled in an RN to BSN program, 19 percent enrolled in an MSN program, and 21 percent enrolled in a doctoral program.

Nursing is a constantly developing profession. Nurses must maintain confidence and remain open to collaboration and evaluation to attain the best patient care. For a lasting and thriving career, nurses should commit to improving their skills through lifelong learning. Many colleges offer courses focused on professional development in their online RN to BSN programs. The coursework provides an overview of the professional nursing role in healthcare systems.

Learn more about the LSUA online RN to BSN program.


Retrieved from Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. (2010, October). The Future of Nursing: Focus on Education.

Retrieved from About ANPD. (n.d.).

Retrieved from Boosting Participation in Professional Development Activities. (2015, July 16).

Retrieved from Role of Nursing Professional Development in Helping Meet Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing Recommendations. (2013, July 17).

Swihart, D., Ph.D, DMin, MSN, CS, RN-BC. (2009, July 8). Nursing Professional Development: Roles and Accountabilities.

Swihart, D., Ph.D, DMin, MSN, CS, RN-BC. (2010, August). What does a Nursing Professional Development Specialist (Nurse Educator) do?

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