A Theoretical Framework Sustaining Career Advancement Among Staff Nurses

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Jennifer Harley, MSN
Nursing Administration, James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis, IN

Learning Objective 1: describe the relationship between key concepts within the Synergy Model and career advancement

Learning Objective 2: identify elements contributing to the evolution and sustainability of the Synergy Career Advancement Program

Today’s nursing work environment requires a systematic, evidence-based approach to staff development and career advancement.  The Synergy Model offers such a framework to describe and explain factors influencing differentiated nursing practice and curriculum design impacting the professional work environment. The evolution of the Synergy Model continues at a multi-hospital system in Indianapolis that was the first hospital system in the nation to partner with AACN to operationalize the Model.   Key concepts of the model include patient characteristics and nurse competencies.  When individual patient needs are aligned with nurse competencies and skill sets, synergy occurs optimizing patient outcomes (Curley, M., 1998).  The nurse competency concept has been central to the development, spread, and sustainability of the Career Advancement Program (CAP) where all levels of nursing participated in sub-concept analysis of nursing competencies. Differentiated nursing practice is illustrated as all direct care RNs are eligible to participate in CAP, which recognizes and rewards professional nursing practice at three distinct levels – Associate Partner, Partner and Senior Partner.  Educational requirements, professional certification, and nursing contribution at the unit, system, and community level increase as the bedside nurse navigates the professional advancement continuum. Spread and sustainability have been influenced by a structured Synergy Curriculum and by designing job performance documents to reflect the key nursing competencies reflected in the model.  Eligibility for advancement is based upon a mutual evaluation between nursing leadership and the direct care nurse during annual performance evaluation.  Synergy Curriculum completion is required in addition to demonstrated proficiency in practice and illustrated contribution at the unit and/ or system level.  Decision to advance is based upon a Board of Review that includes all levels of nursing.   Program effectiveness and related metrics are the responsibility of the Synergy Steering Committee including all levels of nursing.