Aim: To discuss the results of a study that explored factors that may influence competence development.
Background: Competence, a controversial issue in health care settings, affects many aspects of the nursing profession, including education, practice and management. Although a number of research and discussion papers have explored the issue, in particular the meaning and assessment of nursing competence, to date little research has explored factors identified by nurses themselves as influencing their development of professional competence.
Methods: A purposive sample of 27 registered nurses was recruited from two university-affiliated hospitals. Data collection was by tape-recorded semi-structured interviews. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed according to the qualitative methodology of content analysis.
Findings: Six descriptive categories were identified from the data: experience, opportunities, environment, personal characteristics, motivation and theoretical knowledge.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that the factors influencing the process of developing professional competence in nursing extend across personal and extra-personal domains. An understanding of these factors may enhance the ability of nursing managers and educators to enable student and qualified nurses to pursue effective competency development pathways to prepare them to provide a high standard of care. These findings, which may have important implications for nursing practice, management and education, are being further tested in a larger study.