Example of a National Consensus-Building Process to Develop Nationally Recognized Education Standards and Role/Specialty Competencies

The national consensus-based process described here was originally designed, with funding by the Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions, Division of Nursing, to develop and validate national consensus-based primary care nurse practitioner competencies in five specialty areas. The process was developed with consultation from a nationally recognized expert in higher education assessment. The process subsequently has been used and validated for the development of similar sets of competencies for other areas of nursing practice, including competencies for mass casualty education for all nurses and competencies for acute care nurse practitioners and psych/mental health nurse practitioners.

This process for developing nationally recognized educational standards, nationally recognized role competencies and nationally recognized specialty competencies is an iterative, step-wise process. The steps are:

Step 1: At the request of the organization(s) representing the role or specialty, a neutral group or groups convenes and facilitates a national panel of all stakeholder organizations as defined in step 2.

Step 2: To ensure broad representation, invitations to participate should be extended to one representative of each of the recognized nursing accrediting organizations, certifiers within the role and specialty, groups whose primary mission is graduate education and who have established educational criteria for the identified role and specialty, and groups with competencies and standards for education programs that prepare individuals in the role and specialty.

Step 3: Organizational representatives serving on the national consensus panel bring and share role delineation studies, competencies for practice and education, scopes and standards of practice, and standards for education programs.

Step 4: Agreement is reached among the panel members

Step 5: Panel members take the draft to their individual boards for feedback.

Step 6: That feedback is returned to the panel. This is an iterative process until agreement is reached.

Step 7: Validation is sought from a larger group of stakeholders including organizations and individuals. This is known as the Validation Panel.

Step 8: Feedback from the Validation Panel is returned to National Panel to prepare the final document.

Step 9: Final document is sent to boards represented on the National Panel and the Validation Panel for endorsement.

The final document demonstrates national consensus through consideration of broad input from key stakeholders. The document is then widely disseminated.

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