Public Safety: Confidence in Competence

Monday, July 11, 2011: 4:05 PM

Rachael A. Vernon, RN, BN, MPhil (Distinction)1
Mary Chiarella, RN, LLB, (Hons), PhD2
Elaine Papps, RN, BA, MEd, PhD1
Denise Dignam, RN, BA, PhD3
(1)School of Nursing, Eastern Institute of Technology, Napier, New Zealand
(2)Sydney Nursing School, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
(3)School of Nurisng and Midwifery, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to understand the legislative requirements with regard to assessment of continuing competence for Nurses in New Zealand.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to understand the importance of assessing and monitoring continuing competence in relation to public safety.


The enactment of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance (HPCA) Act 2003 in New Zealand heralded a significant change for nurses.  A key element of the HPCA Act is the requirement that regulatory authorities ensure practitioners, including registered nurses, are competent to practice.  Continuing competence is the responsibility of the individual nurse, however, the assessment and monitoring of ‘continuing competence’ is now the responsibility of the Nursing Council of New Zealand (NCNZ) who define competence as “the combination of skills, knowledge, attitudes, values and abilities that underpin effective performance as a nurse’ (NCNZ, 2010).

There is significant interest in the notion of ‘continuing competence’; however, there is limited research-based evidence to support a particular assessment process. In 2004 NCNZ implemented the Continuing Competence Framework for Nurses (CCF) requiring that all nurses complete an annual self declaration of their competence and verifying that they have engaged in a minimum of 60 hours professional development, a minimum of 450 hours of practice in the three preceding years.  In 2009-2010 the NCNZ commissioned research to evaluate the CCF in terms of the process, validity, reliability and nurses perceptions.


The research was undertaken using a sequential mixed method evaluation design.  Data collection occurred in three phases which included a document review, interviews with 26 key stakeholders and a web-based survey of 1157 registered nurses.


Nurses considered the CCF to be an important, valuable and relevant process. Seventy-six percent of respondents indentified that the CCF provided a mechanism to ensure nurses are competent and fit to practise, and that it combined the best available combination of indicators for ascertaining continuing competence.  


Overall the study demonstrated that the CCF was a valid and reliable tool to monitor continuing competence and has an acceptable level of functionality in terms of ensuring public safety.