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Nurse Educ Today. 2001 Oct;21(7):559-68.

An evaluation of the clinical performance of newly qualified nurses: a competency based assessment.

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School of Nursing and Midwifery, Royal Hampshire County Hospital Winchester, University of Southampton, UK.


The clinical performance of newly qualified staff nurses, or their 'fitness for purpose' has become a central professional and corporate issue and highlighted as a central causes for the reforms recommended by the Peach report (Peach 1999). However the ability to gauge the performance of newly qualified nurses remains a largely subjective exercise relying upon anecdotal evidence or general statements of newly qualified nurses' feelings of inadequacy on qualification. This article seeks to address this issue by reporting the findings of project that sought to compare the expectations of senior nurses regarding the level of competence of newly qualified nurses with that of the actual level of competency as assessed by the preceptors after 8 weeks in post. Using a specifically designed instrument to assess clinical competency a comparison has been made between 139 senior nurses' expectations of the competency of newly qualified nurses and the actual competence as assessed by preceptors of 36 newly qualified nurses after 8 weeks in post. The findings indicate that the senior nurses have clear subjective expectations of the competence level of newly qualified nurses. However these expectations are consistently lower than the actual level of competency demonstrated by the newly qualified nurses as assessed by their preceptors. This research demonstrates that through the use of a validated tool newly qualified nurses consistently perform at a higher level of competency than that expected by senior nurses. The ability to estimate competency levels by objective means should be developed. Further research is needed involving a larger sample of Trusts and Schools of Nursing to replicate the results of this study and to compare methods of the assessment of performance in terms of competency in practice on qualification. It is through developments based upon research such as this that a systematic evaluation of the contribution of Schools of Nursing to the competence of newly qualified nurses can be addressed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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