Professional Development for Cardiovascular Nurses: Why, Why Not, and How? 

Nursing is a dynamic profession with countless opportunities for professional growth. After entry into nursing, nurses can choose numerous paths in their careers depending on the level of education and training that they have attained. 

Nurses in clinical practice can acquire various licenses and certifications, including licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, advanced practice nurse (APN), certified nurse midwive, nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist, etc. Traditionally, training for a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) emphasizes clinical leadership and practice-based scholarship, while a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in nursing focuses on research.  

The multiple settings in which nurses work include clinical settings (hospitals, clinics, communities), academia, research, law, informatics, administration, leadership, health policy, and more. With over one hundred nursing specialties, the opportunities to enjoy a full career are endless.i 

Within this tapestry of possibilities, cardiovascular nursing emerges as a vital domain, demanding specialized skills and a commitment to continuous learning. Professional development for cardiovascular nurses is critical to support the advancement of nurses for personal and professional fulfillment.  

Benefits of Professional Development 

Nurses strive to meet the needs of those we support, including patients, communities, students, and health systems. Yet, not enough time and attention is given to professional development as a source of personal and professional fulfillment.  

Nurses in clinical settings must be aware of the most recent practice guidelines, treatments, therapies, and innovations in order to have the necessary knowledge and skills to provide the most effective and up-to-date care for their patients.ii Given the frequent addition and revision of clinical practice guidelines in cardiovascular disease prevention and management, it is particularly relevant for cardiovascular nurses to be frequently engaged in continuing education. This knowledge is particularly important in improving patient outcomes, reducing medical errors, and enhancing overall healthcare quality. 

Prior research indicates that newly graduated nurses have highlighted their needs for professional development in the workplace, emphasizing the importance of effective feedback, in-unit trainings, and working with a mentor during the first year of practice, as well as the need for more clinical practice hours during undergraduate education.iii  

Another study among both novice and seasoned APNs asserts the need for more professional development, including direct, comprehensive care; support of systems (standards, policies, procedures, or practice guidelines); education; and publication/professional leadership.iv There is also a common belief that mentoring is important in achieving greater professional expertise.4 

Barriers to Professional Development 

In a meta-synthesis of 25 qualitative research articles on how nurses experience and view continuing professional development, there were five overarching themes identified:2  

  1. Organizational culture shapes the conditions 
  1. A supportive environment is a prerequisite 
  1. Attitudes and motivation reflect nurses’ professional values 
  1. Nurses’ perceptions of barriers 
  1. Perceived impact on practice as a core value. 

Barriers that were identified included poor staffing levels, heavy workloads, lack of funding, lack of study time, anti-intellectualism with lack of relevant accessible learning opportunities within their organizations, difficulty in attending professional development activities, and lack of role models.2 

Despite these barriers, it was concluded that nurses value continuing professional development and believe it is fundamental to professionalism and lifelong learning.2 

How PCNA Supports Professional Development  

Numerous organizations seek to provide professional development resources for nurses. PCNA is a premier organization founded by nurses and continues to center its mission in supporting lifelong learning for cardiovascular nurses. A variety of resources are available for nurses to support professional development, and numerous free virtual options alleviate many of the barriers that have been identified. 

  • Annual Cardiovascular Nursing Symposium: A 2.5-day in-person and virtual learning event highlighting the most current evidence in clinical care, research, and career development. Please join us to hear hot topics in cardiology, connect with colleagues with similar interests, and be inspired as a cardiology nurse.  
  • Heart-to-Heart Nurses Podcast: Recorded episodes on relevant cardiovascular-related health topics and professional growth can be found on the PCNA website or downloaded from wherever you access podcasts. 
  • News articles: These timely articles on a wide range of topics are published approximately every 2 weeks. They can be found on the PCNA website.  
  • Cardiovascular news: Relevant CVD-related news can be delivered directly to your email inbox by subscribing to the PCNA newsletter (monthly) and/or the weekly SmartBrief
  • Free online continuing education: Learn at times and locations most convenient to you through individual courses, learning module series, a certificate in cardiovascular nursing, a behavior change mini-certificate, and more. Many are available for continuing education (CE) contact hours. 
  • PCNA Chapters: These regional meetings provide opportunities for networking and earning CE contact hours. Chapters generally host two continuing education events per year during the spring and fall. Find a chapter near you
  • Other events: Peruse in-person and virtual events on the PCNA calendar, including regular virtual summits on hot cardiovascular and nursing topics.
  • Online resources for clinicians: Learn from and utilize resources such as toolkits, provider tools, clinical forms, clinical guidelines, and pocket guides on various cardiovascular topics. Most are free! 

Get involved in PCNA. Share your expertise, learn from others in the field, and give back to the community of cardiovascular nursing. 

Nurses are the linchpin of the healthcare system and health-oriented organizations. Nurses’ multifaceted roles span numerous sectors that continue to make advancements, thus it is essential that nurse continue to advance their knowledge and skillsets. Workplace culture and organizational priorities must embrace the value of supporting nurses in continuous and lifelong professional development to promote personal and professional well-being and standards of excellence.   

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