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Nursing Informatics & Technology: A Blog for All Levels of Users

It’s Time to Integrate Competency-Based Learning into Nursing Informatics

Published March 2, 2015 1:14 PM by Susan Sportsman

Competency-based education (CBE) is in the news and on the agendas of nurse executives and educators throughout the country. This relatively new brand of education begins with the end in mind-specifically, the outcomes of learning and the demonstration of specific competencies by learners.  The competency based approach may be used in a total program of study or related to competencies in a discrete area, such as informatics.

CBC models vary. Course-based approaches to CBC feature a predetermined number of courses with competencies clearly identified. Other models allow nurses to demonstrate informatics competencies at their own pace or integrated into the learner evaluation process. 

Why CBC in informatics? Many experts worry that nurses will fail to meet the requirements of a changing nursing informatics environment. Studies with more positive findings reveal that learners who meet competency requirements are more confident than their peers in delivering patient care and communicating with physicians, patients and family members.  

Moving forward will require that nurse educators secure management support for CBC and clarify expectations on nursing informatics competencies, including the fact that nurses must sustain the competency over time. For example, if educators integrate competencies into more traditional nursing informatics courses, they can require leaners to master one or two competencies before moving on to the next course.

One model for measuring informatics competency is the TIGER Informatics Competency Model, which consists of three parts: computer competencies, information literacy and information management. Other competencies that influence nursing informatics include interprofessional (IPE) competencies, including values and ethics, roles and responsibilities, interprofessional communication and teams and teamwork.

How can educators measure nursing informatics competencies? The majority rely on a combination of skills, simulation and actual performance. But for these methods to succeed, educators must insist on credible evaluation. That, in turn, requires advising learners of measurement criteria, ensuring inter-rater agreement so that all students are evaluated consistently and inter-rater reliability to ensure strong correlation between evaluations done by multiple evaluators. Equally important are the issues of validity and cost. There is cost associated with finding the appropriate measurement tool - or developing a rubric if none is available, and training evaluators to use it consistently.

Regardless of how the profession of nursing and nurse educators respond to shifting trends in education, CBC has an exciting future. Shifts in student and learner demographics, rising education costs and changes in technology have forced higher educational professionals to examine alternatives to traditional credit hour models.

CBC offers the potential for learners to move forward at their own pace while ensuring that they master required nursing informatics skills and content. These programs will likely reduce time to completion and the cost of a nursing or nursing informatics degree. They will also ensure that practicing nurses master informatics competencies as quickly, efficiently and cost effectively as possible.

Going forward, nurse executives and educators must learn how to structure self-paced, learner focused, outcomes-driven learning environments where they can more easily measure learner achievement. They will also need to define and refine informatics competencies, in turn developing creative strategies for learners to demonstrate these competencies.

The evolution to CBC isn't confined to nursing and nursing informatics. The American Enterprise Institute recently released a report predicting that colleges and universities are increasingly likely to offer credit in exchange for demonstration of learning and competency.  

Still, optimism about the future CBC may be premature. The report concludes that "many questions about CBE (competency-based education) remain to be answered before its wide adoption, including which students and degree programs are best suited for CBE, overall cost of CBE compared to more traditional programs, and how to lower out-of-pocket costs for students."

The best approach for nurse executives, educators and learners is to maintain an open mind toward competency-based learning. Regularly review research in nursing and higher education.  Reflect on how you could integrate competency-based learning into a familiar learning environment.  To help conceptualize how competency-based education might be applied in your own setting, choose one or two nursing informatics competencies, then develop learning activities that would help nurses master these competencies, and finally, identify which measurement strategies you would use to determine if the nurse was competent. 


Competency-Based Education Network

Experimenting with Competency

The Landscape of Competency-Based Education

All Hands on Deck:  Ten Lessons from the Early Adopters of Competency-Based Education

Competency- Based Degree Programs on the Rise


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About this Blog

    Occupation: Nursing informatics experts and enthusiasts
    Setting: Various settings in healthcare and academia
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