Aim. This paper reports a study evaluating baseline competence levels among Emergency Nurse Practitioners using an Objective Structured Clinical Examination. The study also aimed to document change in competence over time and following an educational intervention.
Background. Emergency Nurse Practitioners form an increasingly established part of the minor injury service workforce in the United Kingdom (UK). At present, there is no national requirement for them to undergo formal preparation, gain a formal qualification, have continuing professional development or revalidate. Given that it is certain that the use of these professionals to deliver unplanned emergency care will increase in the UK, skill maintenance and extension of skills need to be considered in order to ensure the continued delivery of a quality service. Objective Structured Clinical Examinations aim to test a wide range of knowledge and skills in an objective fashion and can be developed to serve a number of educational requirements.
Methods. A competence assessment was planned using an Objective Structured Clinical Examination. It was developed following questionnaire consultation with Emergency Nurse Practitioners and also in conjunction with Emergency Department specialists and experts in medical education. The Objective Structured Clinical Examination was piloted with Emergency Department junior doctors. Baseline Objective Structured Clinical Examination assessment was conducted in 2001. An educational intervention followed and then a further Objective Structured Clinical Examination assessment took place in 2002.
Results. A total of 17 of 20 Emergency Nurse Practitioners consented to involvement in the study. Comparison of their performance showed a statistically significant overall improvement in performance between the two assessment periods (P < 0·05). Participant feedback on the experience of undertaking an Objective Structured Clinical Examination assessment was very positive.
Conclusions. The assessment process worked well, and provides a framework for competence assessment that can be compared over time, between practitioners and between departments.