“The nursing professional development specialist promotes opportunities for lifelong learning for self and others” (National Nursing Staff Development Organization [NNSDO] & American Nurses Association [ANA], 2010, p. 39). Lifelong learning: as educators we believe in it, and we commit to it. Yet I am often asked, how can we as educators inspire others to commit to lifelong learning? As nursing professional development specialists, we influence others through our words and actions. We also need to share our thoughts and actions in order to be ambassadors of lifelong learning. After reading and analyzing a relevant research study, we also need to share the findings with others, and facilitate integration of that research into practice. We accomplish several effects: enhance our learning, assist others in learning, and role model continuous learning. We learn, synthesize, and share.
How can we focus on lifelong learning in the midst of competing priorities? I believe we have the opportunity to learn from everyone and every situation. We have the opportunity to learn from experts in many fields, those whose knowledge we admire, and those who inspire us. It is essential to read, connect, and learn from others outside of nursing and outside of healthcare. Research from other social sciences can enhance our skills in collaboration. Reading the business literature can enhance our understanding of strategic alignment. Learning from the arts can expand our innovation skills. As we participate in new experiences and continue to stretch our comfort zones, we grow. As we share these new experiences, we role model lifelong learning.
We also have the opportunity to learn from others who are poor role models, and from negative experiences. As we analyze why a presentation was not effective, or what a leader did that disengaged a team, we then can determine how to avoid those negative outcomes. This analysis of cause and effect can provide meaningful insights.
Obtaining feedback provides rich learning opportunities. “The nursing professional development specialist seeks feedback regarding his/her own practice” (NNSDO & ANA, 2010, p. 34). Effective feedback can be challenging to get if colleagues or learners are not skilled or comfortable in providing feedback. An alternative to traditional, reactive feedback is forward feedback. This technique is future focused. Forward feedback consists of identifying an area of personal focus, and asking others to provide a suggestion related to that focus. For example, “I am working on strengthening my skills in providing recognition, what one piece of advice would you give me to enhance my skills in this area?” In my experience, I found that others are often honored to be asked for their advice, and are eager to provide specific behaviors in their suggestions.
As role models of lifelong learning we affect lives that we directly and indirectly touch. As educators we can inspire others to commit to lifelong learning: to learn, synthesize, and share.
National Nursing Staff Development Organization & American Nurses Association. (2010). Nursing professional development: Scope and standards of practice. Silver Spring, MD: Author.