Does Continuing Competence Ensure Safety to Practise and Assure Public Safety?

Friday, 24 July 2015: 1:50 PM

Rachael A. Vernon, PhD, MPhil (Dis), BN, RN
School of Nursing & Midwifery, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia


A common indicator of continuing competence, required by regulatory authorities is continuing education or continuing professional development.  Whilst the continuing competence of health professionals is agreed by regulatory authorities to be necessary to protect the public (Vernon, 2013, Secretary of State for Health (UK), 2007, National Council of State Boards of Nursing, 2009, Vernon et al., 2013b), can it be measured and does it ensure continuing safety to practise and assure public safety? 

This research seeks to test the existing hypothesis that “the measurement of continuing competence indicators and particularly continuing professional development, ensures competence to practise and therefore assures public safety”. This research builds on a previous international study involving the nursing regulatory authorities from Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America (Vernon, 2013).  Vernon’s study determined an internationally agreed consensus view of what constitutes continuing competence, and proposed the development of a consensus model for the assessment of continuing competence.  It refutes the claim that continuing competence ensures public safety, and identifies that although definitions of continuing competence within legislation and policy across developed nations have strong similarities, 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 (Vernon, 2013, Chiarella and White, 2013, Vernon et al., 2013a).  However, the requirement for a specified number of professional development / education hours are a mandated as a annual requirement.


This research is a component of  a larger study that has been undertaken using a mixed method evaluation design. Subject data was be elicited from an audit of CPD and recency profiles of a de-identified convenience sample of registered nurses.  The subject sample was comprised of registered nurses from the following two groups:

Group A. Registered Nurses who have become the subject of competence notifications based on performance grounds (previous 3 years).

Group B. Registered Nurses who have been assessed as part of a recertification / revalidation audit process (previous 3 years)

Comparative statistical analysis was undertaken in relation to the subject Group A and subject Group B. In addition, descriptive analysis of any previous remediation work that was documented, that may have been undertaken by the employer or other relevant body in relation to a competence notification, was identified in association with an audit CPD activities.


In this presentation  summary findings and opinion will be posed in relation to the use of contiuing professional development as an indicator of competence and its relationship or not, to performance awareness or insight when a competence issue has been identified.  


This research seeks to identify and test the relationship between continuing professional development hours as a measure of continuing competence, particularly with regard to ensuring the safety to practise of nurses and thereby assuring public safety.