Why continued competence in wound care nursing matters

continued competence

Continued competence in nursing is not a new idea. It has been the focus of professional nursing practice at all levels.

You can find an abundance of information, research and articles on continued competence, whether the topic is:

  • How continued competence is measured
  • How it can be improved
  • How best to increase and maintain competence

One definition of competence is the quality or state of having sufficient knowledge, judgment, skill or strength (as for a particular duty or in a particular respect).

Another definition describes competence as the quality of being competent — adequacy; the possession of required skill, judgment, qualification or capacity.

Defining continued competence

Pam Dickerson, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, and Kathy Chappell, PhD, RN, FNAP, FAAN, define it clearly in the Principles of Evaluating Nursing Competence podcast.

Competence is the potential ability to function in a given situation and competency is demonstrated in the actual performance in a given situation.

Betty Case di Leonardi, PhD, RN-BC, and Melissa Biel, DPA, RN, are two nurses who have published extensively on competency and continuing competency in nursing.

They characterize continued competency as the “ongoing commitment of a registered nurse to integrate and apply the knowledge, skills and judgment with the attitudes, values and beliefs required to practice safely, effectively and ethically in a designated role and setting.”

How this applies to wound care nursing

As a clinically competent wound care nurse, your patients receive excellent wound care which, in turn, results in good nursing outcomes for your patients.

It can also result in a lower potential for liability for professionally negligent care, according to my blog “Substandard wound care can lead to legal risks for nurses.”

Clinical competency also can help avoid disciplinary action by your state board of nursing for an alleged violation of your state nurse practice act if a patient or his or her family file a complaint against you for the care provided.

Possible violations include not meeting applicable standards of care for wound care nursing and not continuing to update your knowledge and understanding of wound care nursing consistent with current nursing care practice.

Maintaining continued competency is one of your many ethical and legal responsibilities as a nurse. It can be accomplished in many ways, including:

Your competent wound care also can help reduce the number of wounds and the cost of wound care treatment.

Impact of chronic wounds

In the editorial, “Human Wounds and Its Burden: An Updated Compendium of Estimates,” Chandan Sen, PhD, addresses the rising threat chronic wounds pose to “global health and economy.”

Sen’s comprehensive editorial covers numerous topics, including pressure injuries, the perils of chronic wounds, the impact of stress on wound healing and the need for physician education in wound care management.

The statistics he incorporates in the article are astonishing. Sen cites a retrospective analysis of the Medicare 5% data set for 2014 that analyzed all wound categories, identifying about 8.2 million Medicare beneficiaries had at least one type of wound or related infection. 

The same study indicated Medicare cost projections for all wounds ranged from $28.1 billion to $96.8 billion, including costs for the management of infections of those wounds.

“Traditionally wound healing has been under the aegis of basic nursing practices,” Sen stated. Moreover, he continues, that nurses play a crucial role in handling and managing acute and chronic wounds, and embody an “important component of the wound care ecosystem.”

Even so, if limitations exist in sound educational programs for nurses and other healthcare providers in wound care a “significant barrier to uniform evidence-based wound care throughout the country” is possible, he said.

Sen concludes financial resources for education, care and research in wound care is vital, not only for nurses but also for other interdisciplinary wound care team members.

Your ethical and legal responsibility

Advocating for the financial resources to support educational programs in wound care and getting involved in some way with needed research become your additional ethical and legal responsibilities.

Your critical contributions in these ways to the bionetwork, in Sen’s judgment, will help decrease the threat to the “global economy and health.”

Take a wound care course today!

wound care

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent’s posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.

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