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Caring and Competency

Mustard, Lewis W. PhD, LLB

JONA's Healthcare Law, Ethics, and Regulation: June 2002 - Volume 4 - Issue 2 - p 36-43

The long-term crisis in nursing, particularly in acute care hospitals, is demonstrated in studies on negligence by the Institute of Medicine in To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System 1and Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century. 2A review of the nursing literature reflects unclear definitions of competency and its component caring, and no single theory of competency has been adopted from the literature and used in the education of nurses. The American Nurses 2001 Code of Ethics does not resolve this confusion, because it does not correct the individual acts of nursing incompetencies in acute care hospitals.

The author defines caring and competency by providing examples of what they are not in examining 200 actual cases of hospital nursing acts of incompetence by nursing discipline. None of these examples of imputed negligence was reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank because the “corporate shield” protected the nurses by not being named in the complaint nor named as part of the settlement against the hospital.

A new model of the hospitalist, the nurse hospitalist, is presented to act as a daily teacher and facilitator for hospital nurses based on a curriculum of day-to-day examples of substandard patient care. This nurse specialist is an inpatient generalist advanced practice nurse who is employed by the hospital and reports to the chief nurse executive. The author proposes that this new model of the nurse hospitalist be devoted entirely to collaborating with nurse leaders, educators, charge nurses, and floor nurses throughout disciplines in advancing the competency of nursing. This daily proactive and prospective model of improving nursing performance in a facultative manner offers strategies to mitigate the limitations of the retrospective model of quality control. Total quality improvement practiced retroactively is ineffective. The author recommends no structural change in the institution but an educational agenda by the nurse hospitalist, with hospital administration to assist nurses in a new learning environment.

Lewis W. Mustard, PhD, LLB, CEO, Healthcare Negligence Control, Inc, Chapel Hill, NC.

Corresponding author: Lewis W. Mustard, PhD, LLB, PO Box 2442, Chapel Hill, NC 27515 (e-mail:

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.