Digitizing Competencies Opens the Door to Better Training

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Authored By:

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Roger Lee


Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the 2021 Annual OR Manager conference. It was fantastic meeting with and learning from amazing frontline leaders in healthcare.

What I heard over and over again is that one of the biggest challenges facing our healthcare system today is staffing. At one session in particular, the speaker shared that it can take 12 to 18 weeks to onboard a PACU nurse. That is a lot of time, especially when faced with staff shortages.

Knowing that the onboarding process critically depends on ensuring competency, I asked myself…

“How much time does a nurse educator spend chasing paper records versus actual training?”

I wondered if and how digital competency management plays a role in reducing administrative work to allow for more training time.

The way I see it, staff, educators, and executives would ALL benefit from going digital.



In a recent nationwide survey, the leading reasons for nurses leaving were feeling overworked (27 percent) and lack of job satisfaction (16 percent). Staff are looking to learn and grow, so they can do their jobs more effectively and confidently. They don’t want to be mired with administrative tasks. Maybe that’s why today, competency management has been described as the ‘Great Paper Chase.’

On the other hand, with competency management moving from paper to the cloud, staff will become much more organized. They aren’t spending valuable hours stressed, while chasing paper and looking for that checklist to get signed. By having a clear list of competencies to achieve, the time spent with their preceptors becomes more efficient and effective.

This is essential for ensuring a successful transition to practice.



Nurse educators make a difference by passing their skills and knowledge to new and existing nurses. Inherently, they play many parts: role models, innovators, critical thinkers, mentors, cheerleaders, and confidants. Likewise, by identifying learning needs, they encourage trainees academically and improve clinical competence and personal confidence. They can’t do this stuck in an office buried in paperwork.

Going digital doesn’t just lead to more training, it leads to better training, because it eases the administrative burden. Nurse educators can finally get away from their desks and actually get more quality time with their trainees. Rather than spending time shuffling papers, they now have time to enhance the organization’s training programs. After all, it’s about creating high-performing staff who deliver higher-quality patient care.

According to a 2020 AORN Survey of nurse educators, on average, a nurse educator will orient up to 50 new employees in a year and be responsible for approximately 50-400 nurses at a time. That’s a significant number to teach and track! Not to mention, some are working 98 hours per pay period and 25% of that time is spent doing administrative (competency management) tasks. That’s nearly 24 hours of wasted time per pay period, much of which could be freed up to provide more valuable training time.


Executive Management

In 2021, with hospitals losing an average of $3.6M to $6.5M due to turnover, increasing retention is more critical than ever before. Improving job satisfaction is one way to do it. Just think about it: when nurses are spending their time chasing paper or stuck behind desks, they can’t engage with patients, which is, arguably, their biggest passion. So it’s no surprise job satisfaction and employee morale take a major hit. On the flip side, cloud-based competency management means nurses can learn and document their competencies, even at a patient’s bedside. It means there is clarity for growth and career laddering, an essential part of the MAGNET pathway. It also means a happier staff that performs better and delivers higher-quality patient care.


Simplify change management

We operate in an increasingly fluid healthcare environment. Evidence-based procedures are constantly being updated. New technologies are being adopted, and rapid environmental changes are now the norm. A digital solution means individual, department, facility and organizational competency plans can be developed, revised and distributed within minutes. What once required updating – at times – hundreds of binders, chasing people down if progress wasn’t made, can now be managed on any device at any time. Plus, built-in reminders can be sent when progress isn’t made. Going digital means staff, educators and administration can easily see and access all competency requirements in a user-friendly platform.


The goal: More and higher-quality training

A digital competency strategy isn’t just about making sure someone completes a checklist. It is the foundation for building a solid preceptor education program that has the capacity to train more nurses and train them better than ever. This results in higher-caliber and happier staff, while ultimately saving money and lives.

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