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The purpose of this essay was to demonstrate nurse expertise as a critical element of meaningful nursing experience. Nurse expertise remains a significant factor that influences the quality of patient care and patient outcomes. Many nurses, however, are not able to become experts in their profession. Nurses can become experts by attaining the right education, experience and working in a professional, supporting environment.
Nursing education and expertise are critical to improved quality of care. Well-educated, clinically expert nurses differ from other nurses because of their decision-making abilities while managing a clinical issue effectively. Education and expertise significantly affect nurses’ clinical decisions and in turn, quality of care for patients and clinical outcomes. Thus, nurses should strive to be experts in their areas of specialization.
Expert nurses have abilities to identify unanticipated clinical situations and proactively engage others to control such situations. Such nurses possess intuitive advantage of the prevailing situations in clinical settings, and they can accurately determine the condition, respond immediately and achieve intended outcomes. Expert nurses have always demonstrated superior performance and therefore, other nurses and nurse educators normally consult them. According to McHugh and Lake (2010), many nurse professionals will progress and attain competencies in their practices, but a significant number will never become nurse experts.
Nursing expertise is imperative because of its influences on clinical judgments, patient quality of care and potential outcomes. Nurses can only acquire expertise when they “test and refine both theoretical and practical knowledge in actual clinical situations” (McHugh & Lake, 2010, p. 276). Through education and experience, nurses undergo through five potential levels to become experts, including “novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert” (McHugh & Lake, 2010, p. 276).
Experience in a nursing setting is imperative but different from expertise. Experience reflects period spent in practice and self-reflection outcomes that ensure that nurses can confirm, review, refute and refine their ideas and expectations in a given clinical setting. A mere interaction with patients in various circumstances does not constitute experience. Instead, nurses can develop experience by reflecting various aspects of patient care and developing effective decision-making skills spontaneously (McHugh & Lake, 2010). Nurses must recognize that experience is important but not satisfactory for attaining expertise. Moreover, not all nurses who have experiences can become experts. This implies that time spent, events and interactions with patients do not necessarily make one an expert in nursing.
Nursing education has significant impacts on nursing expertise. Nurses must have theoretical background information and practical knowledge to develop their expertise levels. Didactic nursing education alone, however, cannot develop nursing expertise. Nursing education must always promote further learning and evidence-based learning to help nurses to develop their clinical expertise. That is, a sound nurse education can assist in developing nursing skills and expertise through experience.
McHugh and Lake (2010) observed that clinical settings have profound impacts on nursing expertise. On this note, the authors argued that social involvement with other like-minded nurses, conformity with expected norms, and information flow systems could help educated, experienced nurses in a professional working environment to develop nurse expertise.
While many nurses may achieve competency levels in their practices, it remains difficult for them to become experts in nursing. However, with the right education, experience and a supporting work environment, nurses can develop fundamental attributes to help them to become nurse experts and improve quality of care and patient outcomes.
McHugh, M. D., & Lake, E. T. (2010). Understanding Clinical Expertise: Nurse Education, Experience, and the Hospital Context. Research in Nursing & Health, 33(4), 276–287. Web.