How registered nurses balance limited resources in order to maintain competence: a grounded theory study

Rees, Sharon ORCID: 0000-0001-5070-3204, Farley, Helen and Moloney, Clint ORCID: 0000-0003-2520-1506 (2021) How registered nurses balance limited resources in order to maintain competence: a grounded theory study. BMC Nursing, 20. ISSN 1472-6955


Background: Nurses have limited time outside of work for continuing professional development. Consequently, strategies need to be explored to enable them to better maintain their competence. This article describes recent research investigating if nursing behaviours in the use of mobile technologies could be leveraged to better facilitate mobile learning. It addresses a gap in the existing literature around how nurses resource their own professional development and learning in the absence of appropriate learning resources in the workplace. Methods: The research employed a classic grounded theory methodology which was conducted with 27 registered nurses from Public and Private Hospitals in Queensland and external postgraduate nursing students from Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory enrolled at the University of Southern Queensland. Results: The Theory of Economising Learning describes how nurses maintain competence with limited resources. Unfavourable staffing levels and a fast-paced workplace mean that nurses rarely prioritise their professional learning while at work. Instead, it requires the nurse to contribute personal resources including time and money. Though the research revealed nurses were unconcerned about using mobile technologies, they were concerned about maintaining competence with limited resources. To counter this, nurses economised their learning by balancing personal resources against their motivation to maintain competence. The process of economising learning begins and ends with the development of the nurse’s personal curriculum in response to what they identify as being the most significant knowledge deficits at work that jeopardise their competence. A learning opportunity that addresses the knowledge deficit is sought. Nurses balance the opportunity to address the deficit against the cost of personal resources, to decide if they will engage with the opportunity and update their personal curriculum accordingly. Conclusions: It is suggested that workplaces need to create reasonable expectations within nurses to address knowledge deficits and provide the resources, including time, to allow them to do so without personal cost. It is also necessary for workplaces to moderate the flow of learning opportunities so as not to overwhelm and demotivate the nurses. Currently, nurses use several strategies to optimise their learning using mobile technologies which could be leveraged in the workplace.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1186/s12912-021-00672-6
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Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4205 Nursing
Current > Division/Research > College of Health and Biomedicine
Keywords registered nurses, nurse education resources, clinical competency, clinical skills, skill retention, professional development
Citations in Scopus 2 - View on Scopus
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