Regardless of how one defines productivity, it is clear that one cannot be productive at work if one is not at work.
Of course, not all professional development is geared at reducing the impact of work-related stressors, but the reality is that that successful professional development should help relieve stress. In fact, professional development is considered a key element of establishing a healthy nursing work environment. According to the Florida Center for Nursing, professional development is one of the twelve essential elements of a healthy work environment. (Florida Center for Nursing, 2006). Obviously, a company's human resources department determines its policies regarding continuing education, including whether a company will offer in-office opportunities for continuing education, whether a company will pay for professional development, and whether nurses will be given time off in order to pursue continuing education. Therefore, it is important to understand the role of human resources in today's health care industry. "Health care is a labor-intensive industry, and money spent on human resources constitutes a large portion of a health care organization's budget. Staff development directors have an opportunity to leverage this large investment with strategic education programs." (Fabre, 2005). Furthermore, health care administrators are coming to the conclusion that "continued professional development of every employee, regardless of role served, is necessary to provide optimal patient care; it is a shared responsibility of the organization and each individual employee. (Roussel, Swansburg, & Swansburg, 2006).
This continued professional development has positive benefits for nurses and for their employers. However, there is another player in the relationship between productivity and continuing education, and it can have a critical impact on the nature of professional development. This entity is the regulatory agency in charge of nursing licensing. Depending on the states, some nurses are required to take continuing education classes in order to maintain their nursing licenses. Some states have not made continuing education mandatory, but do make it more difficult for nurses to renew their licenses if they have not obtained continuing education. However, other states do not require any type of continuing education. It is important to understand why some regulatory agencies demand continuing education, in order to understand why the government is considered a stakeholder in this relationship. Government regulatory agencies push for continued education to make sure that nurses are up-to-date with new advances in medicine and nursing. Such a practice makes sense, given that some medical truisms from past days have proven to be both ineffective and dangerous. Without requiring nurses to engage in continuing education, regulating bodies have no way of knowing whether or not a nurse is keeping up-to-date with the latest medical practices. Therefore, one must always keep in mind that there are three stakeholders in professional development: the nurse, the regulatory body, and the employer. (Hall, 2005).
Nursing view of productivity
The nurse view of productivity tends to focus on two different elements. First, like most other professionals, "nursing personnel generally want to earn a good living and live a good life, two goals that are inextricably linked. (Swansburg & Swansburg, 2002). In addition, nurses want to give their patient's better care. Combining those two elements, one comes to the conclusion that nurses look at productivity as a function of the care they give their patients, and also as a function of their personal productivity, as that relates to their own lives. Therefore, for nurses to perceive a continuing education course as contributing to productivity, they would need to believe that the education provided either improved patient care or led to personal benefits for the nurse. Fortunately, there are many different types of nursing continuing education that could cause an increase in productivity, as defined from the nurses' perspective.
Because this paper has already discussed the fact that nurses are the triage intake personnel in emergency rooms, the author will now examine a type of continuing education that could increase productivity in exactly such a setting. Training geared at teaching nurses how to diagnose and treat minor medical problems that would actually be more appropriately diverted to urgent care facilities or primary doctor's offices would help eliminate children to an emergency room when their children experience inconvenient, but not very conditions, such as the croup. If a nurse could do a complete intake, including all vitals and a thorough patient history on each patient, and begin treatment of a patient based on that information without consulting with a doctor, it would greatly reduce waiting time. It would reduce even more time if some treatment could be done without any consultations with a doctor, which should be possible for standard illnesses. Obviously, if the treatment involves dispensing medication of any sort, then, unless the triage nurse is a nurse-practitioner, the nurse will have to consult with a doctor before dismissing the patient.
However, providing nurses with the professional development they need to have more independence in assessment and treatment would increase the productivity of individual nurses, because they would not be dependent on doctors to administer treatment, increase the productivity of the emergency room by driving down waiting times, and do so without exposing patients to the risk of inappropriate treatment, because of the continued education.
Professional development can also increase productivity in an office setting. Nurse education focuses on health care concerns. However, many nurses find themselves confronted by a wide variety of issues outside of the healthcare arena. Providing nurses with training in these various areas could help increase their productivity by giving them the education that they need to further their careers. For example, a school nurse has a defined set of duties and expectations, which works to limit opportunities for advancement. Furthermore, unlike other professionals in the educational setting, a nurse's primary duties can prevent her from taking on additional duties in the school setting, like coaching a team. However, some school nurses can participate in running other activities, such as ROPES leadership skills training courses. While becoming a ROPES facilitator is not something one normally considers when looking at nursing professional development, it is exactly the type of professional development that is likely to increase a nurse's personal productivity. By teaching a nurse to become an outstanding leader and providing her with the skills to build strong teams, continuing education allows her to step up in any setting, especially a school environment, and take a leadership position as the center of a strong team. In fact, any training that allows nursing staff to take a more hands-on approach to the leadership of an organization is likely to increase productivity, because it provides the nurse with an opportunity to increase compensation and responsibility, without the normal concomitant increase in stress.
Management view of productivity
Of course, the management view of productivity differs from the nurse view of productivity and focuses on the financial bottom line. Because professional development involves significant expense to an organization, many in management do not see how such continuing education can enhance the bottom line. For example, for a nurse to take one-day of a company-sponsored continuing education course, it involves the company losing that nurse for a day, having to pay another nurse to cover her shift, which could involve the payment of overtime, and the out-of-pocket expenses related to the course. Especially in large organizations, those costs can quickly become prohibitive. Therefore, many in management view professional development in a negative light, which may actually strip it of many of its benefits. Maintenance education will enhance nurses' productivity when management recognizes that education and productivity are linked." (Swansburg & Swansburg, 2002).
For example, nurses come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds. Their different schools are all going to provide the same basic courses on medical care, but may provide very different levels of education on non-health care matters. However, each state requires nurses to adhere to basic healthcare laws. If management provides nurses with the opportunity to pursue professional development in these areas, they can make sure that their nursing staff is all working from the same guidelines. The result of that training would be streamlined office procedures, which would result in an increase in productivity, and a smaller likelihood of individual mistakes.
Government view of productivity
Unlike management and nurses, when governmental entities consider continuing education for nurses, they are not primarily considered with increase productivity. On the contrary, regulatory agencies advocate for continued education because it reduces the likelihood that nurses will make critical errors in health care, thus increasing patient safety. Because some of these enhancements can actually be more time consuming, it may be difficult for one to see how they could lead to increased productivity. However, such a view is narrow and limiting and does not take into account the tremendous impact that health care has on people in this nation.
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