Assessing performance in critical care nursing practice using the Benner Novice to expert model: A pilot study

Christensen, Martin (2013) Assessing performance in critical care nursing practice using the Benner Novice to expert model: A pilot study. In Australasian Nurse Educators Conference, 23-25 November 2011, Hamilton, New Zealand. (Unpublished)



It is often believed that by ensuring the ongoing completion of competency documents and life-long learning in nursing practice guarantees quality patient care. This is probably true in most cases where it provides reassurances that the nursing team is maintaining a safe “generalised” level of practice. However, competency does not always promise quality performance. There are a number of studies that have reported differences in what practitioners know and what they actually do despite being deemed competent.


The aim of this study was to assess whether our current competency documentation is fit for purpose and to ascertain whether performance assessment needs to be a key component in determining competence.


15 nurses within a General ICU who had been on the unit <4 years agreed to participate in this project. Using participant observation and assessing performance against key indicators of the Benner Novice to Expert5 model the participants were supported and assessed over the course of a ‘normal’ nursing shift.


The results were surprising both positively and negatively. First, the nurses felt more empowered in their clinical decision making skills; second, it identified individual learning needs and milestones in educational development. There were some key challenges identified which included 5 nurses over estimating their level of competence, practice was still very much focused on task acquisition and skill and surprisingly some nurses still felt dominated by the other health professionals within the unit.


We found that the capacity and capabilities of our nursing workforce needs continual ongoing support especially if we want to move our staff from capable task-doer to competent performers. Using the key novice to expert indicators identified the way forward for us in how we assess performance and competence in practice particularly where promotion to higher grades is based on existing documentation.

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ID Code: 90892
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: No
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Nursing
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 The Author
Deposited On: 02 Dec 2015 00:41
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2015 00:41

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