Professional standards describe the competent level of care in each phase of the nursing process. They reflect a desired and achievable level of performance against which a nurse's actual performance can be compared. The main purpose of professional standards is to direct and maintain safe and clinically competent nursing practice.
These standards are important to our profession because they promote and guide our clinical practice. They provide an evaluation tool for yourself and your colleagues to ensure clinical proficiency and safety. Professional nursing standards are also used to provide a framework for developing clinical competency checklists or proficiency evaluations for a specific clinical unit or employer. And they may be used as a comparison tool to evaluate a nurse's care if the employer suspects the nurse has developed unsafe work habits or isn't adhering to established organizational policies or widely accepted guidelines established by state and federal laws or leading healthcare organizations.
Professional standards assist us, our management team, and our healthcare organization to develop safe staffing practices, delegate tasks to licensed and unlicensed personnel, ensure adequate documentation, and even create policies for new technology such as social media. For example, if a nurse discloses on a social media site that he or she is providing care to a specific patient, it potentially violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Violating a professional standard can expose you and your healthcare organization to liability and potential loss of licensure.
Professional standards guarantee that we're accountable for our clinical decisions and actions, and for maintaining competence during our career. They're patient centered, promote the best possible outcome, and minimize exposure to risk of harm. These standards encourage us to persistently enhance our knowledge base through experience, continuing education, and the latest guidelines.
We can utilize professional standards to identify areas for improvement in our clinical practice and work areas, as well as to improve patient and workplace safety. We must continue to ensure that our—and our peers'—clinical practice meets or exceeds established professional standards to maintain the trust and respect of our patients and the community.
You can review professional standards by visiting the websites of accredited organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Nurses Association, The Joint Commission, and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, as well as state and national regulatory agencies such as your state's board of nursing. Specialty areas of nursing will typically have a leadership organization that guides or establishes professional guidelines for the specific area of practice, such as the Emergency Nurses Association.
Brush up on professional standards so you can deliver the best care to your patients.