What is Nursing Competency?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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Nursing competency refers to the capabilities, skills, and professionalism of a practicing nurse. These are things which are tested routinely to ensure that patients are given the best quality of care possible. A nurse who is considered competent is able to perform all necessary tasks without error and with professionalism. Although some things are out of a nurse or doctor’s control, it is the aim of most medical establishments to ensure that deaths and serious complications are not due to nursing errors.

Many organizations have tests and programs used to help gauge nursing competency. This can include calculating how many nursing errors are made within a certain time frame among all the nurses working in a facility. It can also include continuing education courses which teach new skills and test nurses on things which may have been forgotten since nursing school.

As medical technologies progress, nursing competency courses are becoming more and more important. New medications, equipment, and procedures are learned and implemented all the time. Nurses need to stay up to date on these technologies in order to provide appropriate care for all patients in any situation. For these reasons, nursing is not a static profession, but one that continues to evolve over the span of one’s career.


Nursing competency also involves a person’s professionalism while on the job. Nurses must be able to effectively communicate with patients and remain focused during working hours to avoid making mistakes. Even those who are experts at performing certain procedures can make mistakes if distracted, tired, or anxious. These problems have to be resolved quickly so that patients receive the best possible care.

Some offices and hospitals have surveys patients can take after services have been rendered in order to get a better idea of the quality of care patients are receiving. This allows doctors and board members of hospitals and other establishments to get a good idea of nursing competency in regards to quality of care and personal interactions. The primary way of finding out a nurse's competency level overall is to combine patient information with routine tests and clinical evaluations.

There are various options available for increasing nursing competency. Nurses can go back to school, attend seminars, or intern with more experienced or higher ranking nurses. Sometimes additional training may be needed.


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