Celebrating our Role: A Tribute to NPD Specialists

Joan Warren, PhD, RN-BC, NEA-BC is the President of the Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD). 

Greetings and congratulations to all Nursing Professional Development Specialists!


We are celebrating NPD week in honor of all of us and the work that we do every day as NPD specialists. As practitioners we should be proud. Our role is unique and diverse. As our recent NPD Role Delineation study found, we fill several important roles.


First, transitioning new graduate and experienced nurses for success in their practice specialty is a key role. As an NPD specialist role we prepare student nurses to transition to the “real world” of nursing.  We also partner with experienced nurses as they transition to new practice areas or new levels of leadership. Through this NPD role new graduates as well as experienced nurses gain competence and confidence, are retained by the organization, and are prepared to meet the needs of our constantly evolving healthcare environment. Not only do we impact the professional growth of individual nurses, we impact the organization. Successful role transition ensures high quality and safe patient care.  Our impact on positive patient outcomes and nurse retention saves organizational dollars. Take a moment this week to walk the halls and meet with the many nurses you transitioned into practice.


As NPD specialists we are also facilitators of learning. In this role, we are accountable for educating staff for the future. Every day we are challenged to create and implement cost effective, efficient, and timely education for staff. We use innovative teaching methods and technology to facilitate knowledge retention and competence. Not only are we expected to be knowledgeable about patient populations, we must be experts in learning - two very diverse yet complimentary skill sets. Take advantage of NPD week to highlight the many innovative education programs you have conducted and demonstrate how these have impacted nurses’ knowledge and patient outcomes.  Both staff and leadership should know!


Next we are change agents. Healthcare is rapidly changing and we are essential in translating new knowledge into practice and then motivating and educating staff to adopt these new practice changes. As an adaptive expert, we must implement sustainable rapid cycle change and must be knowledgeable about strategies to influence practice change and ultimately patient outcomes.


As change agents, we must ensure that changes we promote are evidence based.  The Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Evidence-Based Medicine (2008) set a goal, that by 2020, 90% of clinical decisions will be supported by the best available and most accurate evidence. Our role as Champion of Scientific Inquiry serves as a driving force in translating knowledge into practice. As a consumer of research we guide nurses in interpreting evidence and managing practice change to improve patient outcomes. Take a moment this week to highlight the many practice changes you facilitated and the resulting patient outcomes.


Perhaps one of the most rewarding roles of NPD specialists is the role of mentor. Think about it - we influence and change people’s livelihood. Helping others to help themselves to become successful in achieving their personal and professional goals is a rewarding experience. Reflect on the many nurses you assisted in obtaining certifications or advanced nursing degrees and how these nurses have advanced professionally in their careers either at the bedside or as nurse leaders.


Leadership is the most important role we have as NPD specialists. In today’s healthcare environment we must demonstrate leadership to be successful in our roles. Yet we often fail to think of ourselves as leaders.  Learn from Miss Colorado and do not refer to yourself as “just the educator”. If we are to be true organizational leaders we must be engaged at all meetings.  Since we are experts in facilitating learning, practice change, nurse transitions and patient care, it’s important for us to highlight our expertise and let members of committees know our value to the organization.  Further steps to enhance your leadership include the following:


  • Learn and be able to articulate your hospital’s, department’s, and unit’s quality, patient safety and patient experience scores.
  • Know your organization’s strategic plan and be able to explain your role in helping to achieve it. 
  • Lead teams and share your outcomes.
  • Don’t wait for others to acknowledge you – take an active role in sharing your value.
  • Participate in ongoing learning, growth and development opportunities to enhance your leadership abilities.

Finally, as NPD specialists, we must advocate for our specialty practice.  This is our week to articulate the value of the role of the NPD specialist. As you continue to advance in your practice, enroll in an advanced nursing degree program or obtain certification.

This week’s blog is full of suggestions for optimizing our roles and promoting our specialty.  Develop your action plan – not just for this week, but for the whole year!

Have a wonderful NPD week………

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