Staff Development: A Systems Approach. Donald Billie. Thorofare, New Jersey: Slack Inc., 1983, 167 pages.
Because there is a limited amount of printed material available, a new book for the nurse in staff development is good news. When compared with the books already on the staff development shelf, Don Bille's Staff Development: A Systems Approach does not duplicate existing materials. For the staff development department particularly interested in continuing education (as opposed to inservice or orientation), this book provides helpful content on needs assessment, involvement of the learner, program planning, cost recovery, and evaluation. The approach used is andragogical and in keeping with the humanistic philosophy, which the author describes and defends.
As the title indicates, the systems theory is the framework used for this book. The author uses a basic system theory assumption that the whole of a system is equal to the sum of the component parts. Staff development can therefore be understood by examining the parts. In contrast, the humanistic philosophy is based on the assumption that a whole (for example, a person) is more than the sum of its component parts. Systems theory is commonly used to describe and study organizations. Humanism is the primary philosophical base for nursing. Embracing both philosophies simultaneously results in staff development educators supporting a belief that learners are mature, autonomous, and self-directing, and then designing fairly inflexible behavioral objectives and end-ofcourse tests. This book demonstrates that same type of dualism which is so frequently a problem. It would have been so helpful if the author had identified this philosophical dilemma in staff development, explored it, and offered some assistance to nurses in dealing with the problem.
The philosophical problems aside, this book is realistic, explicit, and helpful. The topics which it covers are well-done and complete. Examples are included in the text as well as several appendices. Chapter 6 is a contributed chapter on new graduates. Although quite discontinuous with the rest of the book, it is an interesting addition.
Total program goals, budget allocations, priority setting, the entire range of program types necessary for staff development, and ongoing total program evaluation are not included in the content convered by the author.