Nursing Competencies

Nurses at St. Jude perform vastly different tasks, depending on the areas in which they work. For instance, a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit administers hemofiltration (a blood purification system) therapy on a regular basis, whereas a nurse in Stem Cell Transplant often troubleshoots problems with stem cell infusion. A nurse in the Operating Room must know how to position a surgical patient on the operating room table; a nurse in Sedation must be able to administer sedation safely.

“A nurse is a nurse is a nurse is not correct,” says Sam Maceri. For that reason, St. Jude nurses chose to create a competency verification process that is unit based.

“If you do competencies that are directly related to a specific setting, then you’re more at ease with the job that you’re doing and the care that you’re performing” says Sharon Wood, RN. “It will give you a better overview of what’s expected of you as well as improve your abilities and skills.”

A nurse chooses the way he or she wants to verify their competency from a pre-approved list of options. Each unit has a list of competencies. Each of these competencies has several different ways it can be verified.

  • While performing a competency task during your course of work one day, you can call a manager to assess your skill.
  • A nurse who enjoys teaching might conduct a brief class for coworkers that covers all aspects of line care.
  • Another nurse may prefer to use a quality improvement monitoring system, where she watches a peer perform the skill and evaluates compliance with St. Jude protocols; the coworker then reciprocates.

Competencies are assessed yearly. The specific competencies may change based on the patient population and on the opinion of the staff nurses and managers.

"Competency isn’t about having skills, but using skills,” Maceri says. “It’s not what you can do, but it’s what you actually do that is evidence of competency."