Competency is Essential Throughout Every Healthcare Organization

What are Competencies?

Competencies ensure the right people throughout your clinical workforce are equipped to achieve optimal performance outcomes. Successful competencies align with organizational goals and individual performance evaluations and are used to prevent patient harm while improving clinical outcomes.

The American Hospital Association tells us that competencies are the combination of knowledge, skills, personal characteristics, and individual and social behaviors needed for someone to perform a job. This is a change from healthcare’s previous understanding of competencies as skill-based evaluations. The distinction is that a skills assessment can be validated in one or a few instances of the employee’s performing the task (consider a checklist), while a competency assessment is validated over time and in a variety of situations and methods. It is important to have nurses that are clinically competent and have strong interpersonal skills.

Competencies in Healthcare

Competencies are by no means new to healthcare. Our nursing colleagues have been using competencies to rate skill performance for many years. A growing trend in healthcare is to develop competencies across the organization, ensuring that each person, in every position, is competent in their role. Can you imagine it? Let’s consider another industry to prove our point. Imagine in the airline industry, that only the pilot and co-pilot have competencies to ensure they are capable of successfully performing their roles. The others have job descriptions, but not competencies. That would include the flight attendants, maintenance personal, ticketing, security, etc. Did that make you nervous?

What would having an entire staff of competent employees do for you? Keep in mind that competence cannot be reliably predicted by credentials or years of experience alone. This can apply to the perception of employees throughout your organization. Imagine each employee equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and judgments to help their departments achieve their goals. Now imagine them all working together to achieve the goals of the organization—patient experience, growth, patient safety, and quality of care. No one wants to harm patients, but it is certain that if we do not keep up with the many changes in healthcare and the evidence basis supporting these changes, we may be the unwitting providers of harm, rather than help.


Competencies and Employee Engagement

We know that engaged employees are happy employees, and happy employees provide the best patient care and services. One of the greatest aspects of employee engagement is feeling an attachment to the mission and goals of the organization. Do each of your employees know how the work they do every day contributes to improved outcomes? When competency statements are directly aligned with those goals, each employee can know how they contribute and engagement is strong.

Competencies are used to improve outcomes across your organization. Assessing competencies allows you to identify your high performers for preceptor roles and to identify development opportunities throughout your workforce. It’s not a one-time assessment that’s put in a folder until the next year. Staff development through competency assessments happen all year long to build the organizational outcomes you desire.



Competencies are the exact levers you need to have engaged, confident employees and an aligned organization. It is a trend in healthcare to have competencies for everyone who wears a name badge. Already many healthcare organizations are using HealthStream’s AssessRx to rate the skills and performance of their clinical staff. AssessRx is a comprehensive assessment solution designed to not only access clinical judgment, but also identify errors of omission and failure to act. It captures a clinician’s rationale for their actions, as well as their ability to recognize and respond to urgent patient situations and effectively communicate with others in the organization. AssessRx also decreases orientation time and cost, allowing your staff to spend less time in the classroom and more time where it matters—with patients.

AssessRx helps make certain that all clinicians meet expectations for competent performance. Let it be your primary goal to spark interest in the development needs of employees for whom you are responsible, and in that way, become both a resource for your employees and a public guardian. Your patients deserve nothing less.

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