Is There a Relationship Between Nurse Confidence Levels, Certification, and Competency Exam Scores?

Tuesday, 13 July 2010: 8:50 AM

Jean S. Shinners, PhD, RN, CCRN
Cross Country University, Cross Country Staffing, Boca Raton, FL

Learning Objective 1: Discuss whether there is a significant correlation between self-reported confidence scores and cognitive competency scores.

Learning Objective 2: Discuss whether there is a relationship between confidence scores and cognitive competency scores moderated by specialty certification.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the association between nurse confidence levels and scores on nursing competency exams. Specialty certification was also a moderator for the study. Target audiences are staff nurses and nurse educators who have a role in competency assessment practices. Methods: A quantitative, cross-sectional study was used to investigate study questions. The sample population consisted of 100 RNs who were required to complete mandatory cognitive testing. Each participant completed a Demographic and Confidence Survey prior to the exam. Testing was then completed and data was analyzed in three phases to determine study results. Results: In this study, data showed that nurses with high levels of confidence were more likely to fail their specialty exam relative to nurses in the moderate confidence category. Data also showed that there were a significantly greater number of certified nurses in the failing exam score category. Both of these results are surprising in that the data did not support findings noted in the literature review, previous research cited, and the research hypotheses Conclusion: Competency evaluation is a topic of interest for the global nursing profession and cognitive exams are commonly used as a means of evaluating nursing knowledge. The results of this study indicate that there is not a constant relationship between confidence levels, certification and competency measurement as expected. Also, the fact that nurses who achieve specialty certification are viewed as more competent than their non-certified, less confident cohorts and the feasibility for health care facilities that assume certification is equated with advanced clinical knowledge, practice and excellence needs to be explored. Lastly, the nursing profession needs to establish an acceptable means of communicating competency—one that includes personal, professional, and academic characteristics.