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The use of nursing literature is frequently advocated as a means of maintaining competence The purpose of this study was to compare the frequency of references to competencies in the literature with those retained for the role of first-line nurse managers by an expert panel involved in the Delphi technique In this way, the use of literature in maintaining managerial competence for first-line nurse managers was evaluated When the 20 most frequently mentioned competencies in the literature were compared with the highest mean scores and those ranked as most important by the expert panel only two competencies appeared on all three lists Fifteen competencies were frequently mentioned in the literature but were not identified by the expert panel as important to the role of first-line nurse managers A further three competencies identified in the literature were excluded by the expert panel, indicating they were not perceived to be a function of first-line nurse managers