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Professional Theory

Professional Theory
Jessica Listman-Ward
Frostburg State University

Professional Theory

Nursing is a health care field that is ever changing. It is continually evolving to benefit
nurses and the care that they provide to patients. Since the creation of nursing by Florence
Nightingale over 100 years ago, we have had nursing theories. Nightingale without realizing it
became the first nursing theorist (Blais and Hayes, 2011, p. 100). Her theory of needing air,
water, drainage, cleanliness and light began the initiative for nursing theories (Blais and Hayes,
2011, p. 100). Her concepts while dated are still used to some degree in nursing. Ever since her
original theory, we have had several other theories come about that relate to the care of patients.
After reading and researching the many nursing theorists, there is one that stands out
among the rest. This theory is one that I can relate to. The theory was created by Patricia
Benner and it is a modern theory, known as Benners Novice to Expert Concept. What stands
out the most with this theory is that it can be applied to not only nursing but other careers as
well. Prior to working as a nurse I worked as veterinary technician for 10 years. Without
realizing it I was using Benners theory on a daily basis.
The theory involves five levels of skill, ranging from novice to expert. The novice nurse
is a new nurse. This is best portrayed by the student nurse. They have no understanding of the
field and require additional learning (Blais and Hayes, 2011, p. 107). The next level is known as
the advanced beginner. During this level you have the knowledge to understand what is going
on but you have not experienced it first-hand. This is the level of a new graduate nurse ( Blais
and Hayes, 2011, p. 107). After working for some time a nurse is no longer an advanced
beginner, but rather a competent nurse. They have the experience and the confidence that is
needed in nursing. They know what is most important in terms of caring for the patient, and
when to inform the doctor of an issue (Blais and Hayes, 2011, p. 107). They can become a
proficient nurse that understands the entire situation and how to act on intuition. The last stage
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Professional Theory

of the theory is the expert. They are able to make decisions based on their nursing judgment and
the problem that is at hand. They do not rely on the guidelines and rules of the facility that they
work. They have the experience that is needed to make a quick decision and to act on it (Blais
and Hayes, 2011, p. 107).
What I like about this theory is that the levels are not set in stone. This means that at any
given time a nurse can fluctuate between the levels based upon the situation at hand. Nursing is
field in which there are many opportunities. If a nurse wishes to pursue a career as a NICU nurse
after being a medical-surgical nurse for years, they can do that. They go from the level of being
a proficient nurse to an advanced beginner. This theory allows nurses to learn new things and
evolve on a daily basis.
As a recent nursing school graduate I am considered an advanced beginner. I learned the
skills that were required in nursing school. I even got to practice some of the skills during my
clinical rotations. I have not seen everything that I will encounter as a nurse, but have gotten a
preview of it while I was in nursing school. I recently accepted a job at a hospital as a medicalsurgical nurse so I am a beginner with the facility and a beginner in terms of my skill level.
After working there for a few years I will become a competent nurse, and then a proficient nurse
in terms of the care and experience I can provide the patients.
As a veterinary technician I started as a novice and moved to the level of an expert. I
had no experience and had to go through on the job training to learn the skills that were required.
I quickly grasped the basic concepts and became an advanced beginner. Over the years, I gained
more experience and was able to pick up on the key signs and symptoms to be able to make a
diagnosis. I worked hand in hand with the veterinarian to learn if my diagnosis was correct. I

Professional Theory

became an expert after seeing many emergency situations. These scenarios require you to be
quick on your feet and know your skills. As an expert you must be one step ahead of the doctor.
This requires you to know what they want and have it available before they ask. I can do this
quickly as a vet tech, but I do not have that skill and experience level as a nurse yet. This will
come over time.
This theory is not just a nursing theory, but one that can be used in all aspects of life. We
start out as a beginner in anything that we do and over time we become more proficient in that
skill. As nurses we start out timid and unaware of our surroundings. We gain confidence
throughout nursing school as we prepare ourselves for a career in nursing. Throughout our
career we move from throughout the levels constantly. There are chances to learn new things on
a daily basis. We have continuing education courses that are available. There are specialists
within the hospital that are willing to teach and share experiences. For example, at the hospital
where I work we have a wound/ostomy nurse and a diabetes specialist nurse who care for these
patients in the hospital. They are always available to answer any questions that we may have.
The wound nurse loves to show us the best way to care for a wound. These nurses want to
improve the quality of care that we provide the patients, but they also want to help us learn and
become familiar and comfortable with the tools available to us.
Using the available resources and continuing to learn through courses and advanced
degrees help us become better nurses. If we are comfortable with the nursing skills, tools and
products, than we can effectively teach our patients and provide the best possible care. Nursing
is a profession that is about caring for patients. We cant work as professionals if we dont
understand the resources that are available to us. This theory allows nurses to continually learn
and grow (Blais and Hayes, 2011, p. 106). If we are fixed in one level we cant provide quality
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Professional Theory

care to our patients. We need to become familiar with the new advances in technology and the
evidence based practices that are currently in use or will be in use. If we dont take the time to
learn or progress our careers as nurses we might as well be practicing like they were in Florence
Nightingales time.
As a nurse I plan to continue my education until I receive my DNP. I also plan to take
classes through the hospital that will help me become familiar with the patients that I care for. I
recently took a certification class that was not required so that I could take care of patients with
wounds. The hospital requires that we take the initial course to get exposure to pressure ulcers
and wounds. This was not good enough for me. I do not want a basic understanding of them. I
want to learn and use all the resources available to me. As a result I took all four courses which
allowed me to complete the certificate course. These courses will help improve the care that I
can provide patients. After taking the entire course I can say that I am not an expert but I have
more knowledge than I did with just taking the required course. I want to be the best nurse that I
can be and provide the upmost professional service that I can. This theory allows me to better
myself as a nurse and to provide excellence care to all patients.
The flexibility of this theory helps me become a better person and a better nurse. I am
comfortable communicating with everyone because I know that they understand that I am new
and Im still learning. Overtime I will gain the confidence and the experience that is needed, so
that I wont have to constantly rely on my preceptor or others. I will be able to answer questions
that are asked by the doctors in a more efficient manner. I will become a better leader as I
continue to learn and grow. Right now I have no leadership experience since I am new. Once I
am off of orientation I will not have all the answers but I will be able to help the nurses who start
after me. I will have a better understanding of what they are going through. I will be able to
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Professional Theory

answer their questions and provide them with resources that I found to be of value. Since I
believe in constantly learning I think that everyone should do this. It doesnt matter that you
have been a nurse for 30 years and are considered an expert. There have been many things that
have changed during that time and many things that will continue to change. I dont believe that
anyone should be comfortable with just getting by. I expect that everyone will continue to
learn and take courses that help them take care of the patients. No nurse should be at a standstill
during their career. With all the opportunities that are provided to nurses there is no reason to
not make use of them. Even before I became a nurse I loved collaborating with others.
Everyone has a unique way of looking at a problem. Brainstorming and working together help to
get a task done. Sharing ideas helps us learn and see things in a new way. Working together as
a team mixed with beginners and experts we can continue to provide exceptional care to our
patients.
Benners theory is a useful and has concepts that can be applied to more than nursing. It
allows the nurse to continually develop. As a firm believer of additional education, this theory
supports that. It allows nurses to change between the levels based upon the day and the case load.
It allows nurses to evaluate their skills and get help when needed. It promotes team work and
skill building. I have found this theory to be extremely useful in all aspects of life, not just in my
career.

Professional Theory

References
Blais, K. & Hayes, J. (2011). Professional Nursing Practice: Concepts and Perspectives (6th
ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.