Continuing Education Ensures Competence to Practise and Assures Public Safety

Sunday, 27 July 2014: 9:10 AM

Rachael A. Vernon, RN, PhD
School of Nursing, Eastern Institute of Technology, Napier, New Zealand
Mary Chiarella, RN, LLB (Hons), PhD
Sydney Nursing School, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia


The purpose of this research is to determine what evidence exists to support or refute the hypothesis that continuing education ensures continuing competence to practise and assures public safety. The research builds on a previous international study (Vernon, 2013) that focused on the development of an international consensus view for the assessment of continuing competence.


The research has been undertaken using a three stage mixed method evaluation design.  Each stage of the research has been completed sequentially.  Stage One focuses on a critical analysis of current Case law related to nurse competence notifications.  Stage Two, an analysis of data competence notification data received and processed by regulatory authorities, and Stage Three, interviews with key staff employed by regulatory authorities to process these cases. Triangulation of data has occured to derive the overarching outcomes from this study.


A common indicator of continuing competence, required by regulatory authorities is continuing education or continuing professional development.  However, does continuing education ensure continuing competence and assure public safety?  Whilst continuing competence is agreed by regulatory authorities to be necessary to protect the public in health professional regulation (Secretary of State for Health (UK), 2007, Vernon et al., 2013b, National Council of State Boards of Nursing, 2009).  Definitions of continuing competence within legislation and policy across developed nations have strong similarities, international research (Vernon, 2013) indicates that there is confusion over the level to which continuing competence needs to be demonstrated, the criteria against which continuing competence should be assessed and the role of continuing competence frameworks in ensuring public safety (Chiarella and White, 2013, Vernon et al., 2013a). In this presentation the preliminary research findings and opinion will be presented and discussed.   


This research has sought to understand and dtermine the relationships between continuing education, continuing competence requirements for nurses in New Zealand and Australia, and the relevant legislation with regard to assuring public safety, and as a result the implication for nurses in terms of their continued safety to practice.