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Mandatory reflection: the Canadian reconstitution of the competent nurse

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Abstract:

NELSON S and PURKIS ME. Nursing Inquiry 2004; 11: 247 –257

Mandatory reflection: the Canadian reconstitution of the competent nurse

Over the past two decades, the competency movement has been gathering momentum internationally within the ranks of professional nursing. It can be argued that this momentum is in response to government initiatives aimed at improving consistency in workforce training and accreditation, and fostering national and international portability of qualifications. At the same time, the competency movement has provided the opportunity for regulators, service providers and government to develop mechanisms to reconstitute competent nurses as accountable, self-regulating subjects and to monitor this transformation in particular ways. The ways in which competencies have been taken up to do this transforming work in Canada are unique and deserving of some detailed description and analysis.

We argue that Canadian nursing regulatory authorities have chosen to view competence as the rehearsal of ethical attributes consonant with the professional role, as opposed to the enactment of skilled conduct. As a result, reflective practices rather than skill and knowledge have become the cornerstone of nursing competency formulation and review. We argue that this distinctly Canadian approach to competency serves three ends. First, it privileges the ‘attribute’ element of the nursing competency model and side steps the ever-problematic ‘nursing knowledge’ issue; second, self-surveillance by nurses shifts the onus for professional development from industry to the individual; and third, it concedes responsibility for skill assessment by the regulatory authorities to industry control, leaving employers free to determine skill base and skill mix requirements for practice. Finally, we argue that the reflective component of the regulatory framework for Canadian nurses radically fails as a tool for auditing quality and assessing competency. Rather, it functions as a governmental practice that furthers the deregulatory and economic rationalist aims of the Canadian health reform agenda.

Keywords: Canada; competencies; health reform; nursing; professional regulation; reflection

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1800.2004.00233.x

Affiliations: 1: aSchool of Nursing, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 2: bSchool of Nursing, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Publication date: 2004-12-01

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