Education and training is especially important in any field, but in gastroenterology, it is a constant learning curve and a necessity to stay on top of industry trends. To be as valuable of a resource in your profession, there is an individual journey to take for a group success end-goal. This journey is one of competencies. Donna Wright, MS, RN helps bring clarity to this complex subject and shares her method to distinguish exactly where your competencies lie, and how to improve those that aren’t so glowing.
What is competency?
Competency, by definition, is the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. “Competency ends up being a kind of leveling process,” Donna says. “It’s not just a simple thing of, ‘Here’s a competency and I checked it off so now we’re done.’ Competency has different levels and integration to it.”
Another way to look at competency in a gastroenterology setting is by dividing it into knowledge, skill and attitude, according to Donna. “When you look at [those categories], you can know something, but to actually put it into your practice is a different attitude to have. Do you have the skill? Do you practice enough? If you don’t do it often, then you don’t really develop the skill.” Each divided category must be studied and practiced in order for you to find success within that competency.
Why is competency important?
With so many levels to competency, Donna suggests really being able to hone in on where accountability lies. “Some of the factors we see that really impact that are…the leader’s ability, organizational ability and system ability — to follow through with accountability, to know the difference between competency and commitment issues or compliance issues, and to actually follow through on that.” Accountability, specifically is important when making the shift from simply being aware of what your competencies are, and actually doing something to enhance, or make them better.
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of you and your team is the first step in making salient, important changes to better your overall competency. With this starting base you can specifically measure how you improve, and what areas aren’t making the progress you would like to see as a team. “If you don’t measure it, you won’t value it,” Donna says. “We tell people we want to [be competent] but sometimes our measurement doesn’t correlate with that, or we don’t know how to measure it. So [the question becomes], ‘How do I create and develop a situation where patients will feel safe and engaged?’ Even now, we’ve tried to manipulate our satisfaction levels to guide people. It’s a complicated process.”
Maintaining an ongoing approach of developing in the field
Despite the importance of having the ability to know your competencies, as well as your team’s, it is more important to build on what you learn rather than stay stagnant in your abilities. People don’t lose skill, Donna says, so enhancing what skills you have will only increase your competencies. “What we forget is that the world is constantly changing so we’ve got to keep our competencies always current,” Donna continues. “My skills have changed over time as a nurse; as an adult; as a person in society. Our need of competency is how to keep the finger on the pulse of something that is constantly changing.”
However, it’s not as easy as turning on a Google Alert to notify when the world of gastroenterology changes; it is up to you in your profession to have an awareness of yourself and your skillset. One method Donna has created to help others in the field do so is a worksheet that helps ask the right questions for any specialty. “It’s not like somebody saying, ‘I’ll be the specialist for our field.’ No, I need a specialist to ask the right questions so you can be a specialist in your field, and then also in your department and your organization because those change too. We can’t just create competencies for GI and endoscopy; we have to create competencies for a whole department.”
Assessing the change is a key factor in the competency process. Donna says that by having a system in place that allows your team to keep on top of the sea change, your particular market is cornered and what competencies you need should easily fall into place.
To find out what questions you should be asking, check out this article from The Bottom Line.
Want to hear more?
To learn more about Donna’s methodology regarding competency, attend her session at the Annual Course this May 7-9 in New Orleans, Louisiana. “This isn’t just about competency and it isn’t just about paperwork; we’ll look at all of those things, but we’re going to focus on how to hold people accountable,” Donna says of her upcoming session. “You will walk away with team skills, leadership skills and competency knowledge.” Competency and quality is a strong link in the field, so it’s best you make your link a strong one.