NPD Roles: Lessons Learned as Editor of the Core Curriculum

Pam Dickerson, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN is the Director of Continuing Education for the Montana Nurses Association. She can be contacted at or

Over the past two years, I have had the opportunity and the challenge of serving as editor of the 5th edition of the Core Curriculum for Nursing Professional Development, which was just released in July, 2017, at the ANPD Annual Convention. Retrospectively, I am amazed at how well our NPD Scope and Standards of Practice (Harper & Maloney, 2016) supported that work. Lesson learned – look at the tools we already have, as there may be resources that provide guidance when blazing new trails!

The practice model inputs include the NPD practitioner and learner working collaboratively to identify practice gaps and develop appropriate intervention strategies to facilitate learning and change. Substituting “reader” for “learner,” this same process applied as the editorial team began preparation for the formatting and substance of the new Core. What worked well in previous editions? What were concerns expressed by readers that created opportunities for improvement? What were readers looking for in the new edition? Environmental scanning, a critical behavior for NPD practitioners, was an important factor in analyzing the current and projected practice environments to determine the best ways to develop and present content that would be meaningful and relevant to NPD practice.

Roles of the NPD practitioner include being a learning facilitator, change agent, mentor, leader, champion for scientific inquiry, advocate for the NPD specialty, and partner for practice transition. I used each of these roles many times and in many ways over the course of our work. Probably the most fundamental was learning facilitator. Every chapter of the new Core had to meet the “relevancy” test. Was content designed and presented at the appropriate level to facilitate learning by NPD practitioners? Was it respectful of the knowledge NPD practitioners already had, yet challenging enough to stimulate inquiry and the yearning for even more information? Was content reflective of current practice, yet innovative and “cutting edge” enough to be meaningful over the next several years? Would it help NPD practitioners learn and grow in this specialty?

I found that being an agent of and advocate for change was also important. From minor things like whether page numbers were on both sides or only on one side of each page to major issues like reworking proposed content, knowing how change occurs and how to support and encourage change was critical to success. Having a clear vision, being able to articulate both the desire and rationale for a recommended change, and having the support of the entire editorial team were crucial factors in facilitating change. It was immensely helpful to maintain a sense of humor and balance, realizing that change is stressful and doesn’t happen quickly. Putting drafts aside for a few days, then re-reading them, provided a fresh perspective and helped to facilitate valuable changes. Taking time for walks in the park and playing with my dogs helped, too!

Being a mentor was an incredibly valuable part of this process. For some people involved with this project at the author, reviewer, or section editor level, their work represented a “stretch goal” – something they had never done before but aspired to achieve. Others had moderate to extensive experience, though not always in exactly the same context. Mentoring skills I used during this project included frequent contact, regular feedback, suggestions, and specific guidance where needed. Being sensitive to lines of communication and channeling questions, comments, and feedback through the right processes helped individuals build their knowledge and skills. Watching the development and engagement of team members was an enriching and rewarding experience.   

As a leader of this project, I was able to have input into selection, onboarding, and ongoing support of team members. Part of my responsibility was balancing the work and the needs of authors, reviewers, and section editors with the work and expectations of the ANPD staff team. Keeping focused on the project scope and content envisioned by the ANPD Board of Directors, ensuring that copyright laws were followed in our selection of materials to share, staying within the required timeline to reach the publication deadline, and staying on budget for the project were all important aspects of my leadership role.

As a champion for scientific inquiry, I continually challenged others, and was challenged myself, to be sure content was based on best available evidence and met standards of rigor and excellence. Our team was not shy about reaching out to each other to identify opportunities for improvement and work to facilitate progression of content from section to section and chapter to chapter. This work resulted in some reconfiguring of initial content, merging of some chapters, and reordering of other chapters to present the best scientific evidence in a logical and comprehensive way.

Advocacy and passion for the NPD specialty came through loud and clear in our work. The undisputed goal for our team was to produce a resource that would provide a foundation for beginning work in the field of NPD, guide current practice, and challenge new and creative thinking for future practice. By building role confidence and practice competence in the areas highlighted in the book, readers would be prepared to sit for the NPD certification examination, another way of advocating for the growth and importance of our specialty. Additionally, as graduate programs develop curricula to prepare NPD specialists, the Core was designed to be a resource for faculty and learners in academic settings, expanding the reach of our specialty.

Structuring the Core in such a way that it could be a valuable resource for novice to competent to expert NPD practitioners was a way that the editorial team and I served as partners for practice transition. Although one chapter in the book is devoted to that topic as it relates to onboarding, orientation, guidance, direction, and professional role development for others, the entire Core is based on a partnership between the writers/editors and the readers – providing our best support for developing excellence in NPD practice.    

So – lessons learned? The NPD practice model serves as a wonderful guide for more than clinical practice – it provides a living, breathing framework for all we do. The roles of the NPD practitioner can be demonstrated in many ways and truly came alive for me in working with my colleagues on the Core. Serving as editor for this amazing project was an opportunity for me to learn and grow and hopefully will stimulate readers to do the same.

Now that this resource is available, how will it guide and inform your practice? How will you be challenged to expand and enhance your own professional development? Closing the feedback loop of the NPD practice model depends on your input. Let us know what you have learned, how you are changing what you do, and how you are using your roles to impact quality patient care and promotion of health?

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