The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing

Administrative Angles 

The Professional Development Associate: A Key Role in Professional Development Departments

Pamela S. Dickerson, PhD, RN, NPD-BC, FAAN; Jillian A. Russell, MSN, RN, NPD-BC; Caroline Baughman, BS

Abstract

The professional development associate is a key player in the effective and efficient functioning of a professional development department. This article describes the role as defined by the Association for Nursing Professional Development, provides examples of how the role enhances quality of departmental operations, and identifies resources to support the continual professional development of this individual. [J Contin Educ Nurs. 2020;51(9):394–396.]

Abstract

The professional development associate is a key player in the effective and efficient functioning of a professional development department. This article describes the role as defined by the Association for Nursing Professional Development, provides examples of how the role enhances quality of departmental operations, and identifies resources to support the continual professional development of this individual. [J Contin Educ Nurs. 2020;51(9):394–396.]

Professional development (PD) associates, or those who fill the role with similar titles, have been key contributors to successful PD department operations for many years. The value and importance of the role was identified by Dickerson (2016) and supported by data collected from the Association of Nursing Professional Development (ANPD) members (Spagnola et al., 2019). In 2018, ANPD formalized the role and defined the PD associate as “an individual who contributes to the overall functioning of a continuing education and professional development department in a substantive way” (ANPD, 2019, para. 1). A competency framework consisting of a composite of standards from the ANPD Nursing Professional Development: Scope & Standards of Practice (Harper & Maloney, 2016) and national learning competencies from the Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions (ACEhp, 2014) forms the basis for hiring, developing, and sustaining a professional development associate. Individuals in these roles may have job titles of administrative assistants, continuing education specialists, accreditation specialists, continuing education program coordinators, or other similar terms. Regardless, their competency-based functioning is key to the success of department operations, often referred to as the “glue” that holds the department together.

PD associates are key players in design, development, implementation, and evaluation of both nursing and interprofessional continuing education activities. Because the ANPD role description incorporates information from both nursing professional development (NPD) standards and ACEhp competencies, the PD associate is uniquely positioned to work with colleagues who are planning continuing education for health care teams. The NPD standards include both generalist and specialist accountabilities; the ACEhp competencies reflect novice, competent, and expert levels of performance. Both can be used to support incremental growth and contributions of PD associates as their knowledge and skill increase.

Qualifications for PD associates vary, depending on the needs of the department. Academic credentials can range from high school diploma to master's degree in educational design. Skills in use of learning management systems and related technology are often required. Communication, team collaboration, and problem-solving skills are important for the role. An RN can be a PD associate, offering a good career advancement opportunity for an associate degree RN learning the NPD practitioner role while completing a baccalaureate degree in nursing.

Implementation of the PD Associate Role

PD associates synergistically engage in multiple ways with PD teams under the guidance of their NPD practitioner and/or interprofessional continuing education colleagues. To effectively leverage the competency-based role of PD associates, teams must routinely include PD associates in all stages of project and program development. Table 1 outlines selected examples of PD associate responsibilities based on their level of competency. Supporting the development of PD associates facilitates their competency progression and improves their value to the department.

Professional Development Associate Expertise and Responsibility: Selected Examples

Table 1:

Professional Development Associate Expertise and Responsibility: Selected Examples

Resources for PD Associates Through the ANPD

PD associates are eligible to become members of ANPD. The association has developed a variety of resources to support their role and their work (Russell & Dickerson, 2020). Table 2 provides information about selected resources.

Association of Nursing Professional Development (ANPD) Resources for Professional Development (PD) Associates

Table 2:

Association of Nursing Professional Development (ANPD) Resources for Professional Development (PD) Associates

Summary

PD associates can significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of PD and continuing education departments. A competency-based framework provides a foundation for escalating levels of achievement and performance. Using available tools and resources increases the value of their contributions.

References

  • Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions. (2014). National learning competencies. http://www.acehp.org/p/cm/ld/fid=15
  • Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions. (2020). Certified healthcare CPD professional (CHCP) and healthcare CPD associate certificate. http://www.acehp.org/p/cm/ld/fid=441
  • Association for Nursing Professional Development. (2019, January10). Human resources toolkit for the professional development associate. https://www.anpd.org/p/cm/ld/fid=1401&blogaid=1497
  • Association for Nursing Professional Development. (2020, February21). Professional development associate: Role, competencies, and standards. https://www.anpd.org/p/cm/ld/fid=1401&blogaid=1641
  • Dickerson, P. S. (2016). The critical role of the continuing education specialist. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 47(11), 482–483 doi:10.3928/00220124-20161017-03 [CrossRef] PMID:27783826
  • Harper, M. & Maloney, P (Eds.). (2016). Nursing professional development: Scope and standards of practice (3rd ed.). Association for Nursing Professional Development. doi:10.1097/NND.0000000000000255 [CrossRef]
  • Russell, J. A. & Dickerson, P. S. (2020). Professional development associate: Resource update. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, 1–5. doi:10.1097/NND.000000000000658 [CrossRef]
  • Spagnola, T., Dickerson, P. S. & Harper, M. G. (2019). Professional development associate: Results of a national survey. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, 35(1), 2–5 doi:10.1097/NND.0000000000000504 [CrossRef] PMID:30608313

Professional Development Associate Expertise and Responsibility: Selected Examples

NoviceCompetentExpert
Actively participate in planning committee discussions related to adult learning principles and learner needsGenerate registration and/or evaluation method ideas based on system and protocol capabilitiesActively engage in educational design processes
Manage rosters and help collect evaluation dataAggregate outcome dataActively engage in outcome development and measurement
Collect conflict of interest data and facilitator informationAggregate and screen facilitator information, referring nursing professional development practitioner to specific points of concern as neededAssist in educating planners and speakers related to conflicts of interest
Identify opportunities for improvement in departmental operationsParticipate in quality improvement initiativesAnalyze data to evaluate the effectiveness ofquality improvement initiatives
Identify opportunities for use of technology in planning, implementing, and/or evaluation of professional development activitiesSuggest technology resources that can enhance provider and/or learner effectivenessIntegrate technology into departmental operations
Suggest opportunities for collaboration with internal and/or external stakeholdersParticipate in collaborative activities to engage stakeholders in developing, implementing, and/or evaluating continuing education activitiesIntegrate stakeholder input to improve quality of professional development activities

Association of Nursing Professional Development (ANPD) Resources for Professional Development (PD) Associates

ResourceDescription
Professional Development Associate: Role, Competencies, and Standards CourseThis 8-module online, learner-paced course explores roles and responsibilities within each competency domain. Topics include an introduction to the role and competencies, communication, assisting with activity development, assisting with planning and coordinating an activity, content integrity, adapting to various practice environments and adhering to accreditation and regulatory requirements, assisting with managing and administering a continuing education department, and maximizing the value and success of the role (ANPD, 2020).
Preconvention workshopIn conjunction with the ANPD's annual convention, this highly interactive, all-day workshop builds on the knowledge, skill, and competencies of the PD associate role. This workshop can also be offered on-site at an organization's request.
Annual conventionIn addition to the preconvention workshop, there are myriad sessions appropriate for the PD associate. An educational road map and justification toolkit have been developed to support the PD associate's participation in convention activities.
Human Resources Toolkit for the Professional Development AssociateThis comprehensive toolkit includes an overview of the PD associate role relative to the nursing professional development scope and standards of practice, a position description, and a performance evaluation plan (ANPD, 2019).
Quarterly updatesThese interactive, web-based meetings offer networking opportunities and topics of interest for all members of the professional development team.
Community forumAll PD associates who are members of ANPD are granted access to this exclusive forum on the ANPD website. Discussion threads, a file library, and quarterly update minutes are accessible through this platform.
Certificate preparationParticipation in a variety of ANPD activities contributes toward meeting eligibility requirements for the Healthcare Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Associate Certificate or the Certified Healthcare CPD Continuing Professional (CHCP) credential offered through Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions (ACEhp)(2020).
Authors

Dr. Dickerson is Lead Nurse Planner and Nurse Peer Review Leader, Ms. Baughman is Professional Development Associate, Montana Nurses Association, Clancy, Montana; and Ms. Russell is Program Manager, Association of Nurses Professional Development, Chicago, Illinois.

The authors have disclosed no conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Pamela S. Dickerson, PhD, RN, NPD-BC, FAAN; email: psd409@gmail.com.

10.3928/00220124-20200812-02

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