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What is Clinical Competence and How Can You Maintain It?

In addition to the obvious health risks that come with working in hospitals, primary care offices, and urgent care facilities across the country, physicians, and physician assistants face legal and reputational risks as well.

Failing to administer the appropriate quality of care has negative effects on patients and healthcare professionals alike. One way to help mitigate every risk you face professionally and in terms of patient outcomes is by maintaining your clinical competence.

Here, we’ll take a deeper dive into clinical competence in healthcare to understand exactly what it is, what the benefits and consequences of it are, and different ways you can maintain clinical competence.

What is Clinical Competence in Healthcare?

Clinical competence is a combination of knowledge, skills and judgment:

  • Healthcare professionals must have the knowledge to understand not only how to do their role, but also why it needs to be done.
  • Knowledge alone isn’t enough, so clinically competent healthcare professionals need to develop the technical skills to perform their roles in a real healthcare setting.
  • While knowledge and skills will allow a healthcare professional to handle a majority of the situations commonly seen in their role, they need to be able to make judgements to take appropriate actions when there’s no immediately clear answer.

Critically, clinical competence isn’t stagnant; being clinical competent in your first years of employment doesn’t mean you’ll remain clinically competent throughout your entire career. The ever-changing role of healthcare providers demands that you stay up to date with new information and revisit old knowledge. In short, if you aren’t moving forward, you’re falling behind.

What Does Clinical Competence Look Like?

Medical professionals who maintain a high level of competence will invariably display the same qualities:

1. Clinically-Competent Healthcare Professionals are Reflective

A lot happens in the day-to-day. Practicing reflection can make each experience an opportunity to learn. Meaningful reflection assesses your day’s challenges, successes, and how you can change to work more efficiently or produce ideal outcomes. You can also reflect on your colleagues’ experiences. What did they do to manage a challenging situation?

Additionally, by taking the time to deliberately reflect, it creates an opportunity for you to discuss specific challenges with more-experienced colleagues. Not only can this help you overcome challenges more quickly, but it can also be beneficial for leaders who are trying to understand what their teams are getting stuck on.

While reflection is vital for learning from—and ultimately overcoming— your challenges, it can also be a highly rewarding experience. You can build your confidence by reflecting on successes or moments that you handled with great skill.

2. Clinically Competent Healthcare Professionals are Confident in Their Actions

While physician overconfidence may be a significant contributor to misdiagnosis, it’s nonetheless essential for you to have confidence in your actions. However, in the healthcare industry, confidence isn’t so easy to cultivate. The body is so complex it can confuse even the most seasoned professionals, and the industry learns more about it each day. However, you can always take steps to build your confidence.

Clinically competent healthcare professionals will take time to reinforce the basics of their knowledge. Crucially, they know the extent to their own knowledge, and they’re not afraid to tap their resources, colleagues, and seek opportunities to practice in safe environments when necessary.

3. Clinically-Competent Healthcare Professionals Actively Seek New Knowledge

As we mentioned earlier in the blog, you can’t stagnate and maintain clinical competence. The industry and practice is always changing, and there’s always room for growth, even among the best. Professionals who are clinically competent constantly seek new knowledge throughout their career. They read the latest journal publications related to their specialty, they join organizations home to similar professionals, they attend medical conferences, and much more.

When clinically competent healthcare professionals actively seek new knowledge, they’re not doing it just to check something off a list. For them, it’s an essential part of their role.

What are the Benefits of Clinical Competence?

The benefits of clinical competence are massive for everyone involved in the healthcare experience. Some specific benefits include:

  • Accurate Diagnosis and Effective Treatment: Clinically competent healthcare professionals are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and judgment to make accurate diagnoses and treat patients effectively.
  • Better Patient Satisfaction: A key emerging part of clinical competence is cultural competence. Your ability to deliver care without being impacted by bias while also taking the way patients may be affected by systemic barriers to care into account is essential for modern medicine. Additionally, patients are more at ease around competent and confident healthcare professionals, and better health outcomes and treatments naturally improve a patient’s experience.
  • Reduced Legal Liability: According to a study on diagnostic error, approximately 1 in every 20 diagnoses in the U.S. is wrong. Misdiagnosis can expose healthcare organizations to millions of dollars in risk each year and put professionals at risk of penalties and fines. While clinical competency can’t completely eliminate risks such as misdiagnosis, it has the potential to significantly reduce the likelihood of these occurrences.
  • Professional Fulfillment and Satisfaction: If you devote time to improving your skills and reflecting on your challenges and wins, you’re more likely to be satisfied with your work. Conversely, if you fail to maintain your clinical competence, you may struggle with excessive job-related stress and burnout.

How to Maintain Clinical Competence

Clinical competence is complex, and there are numerous ways to maintain it throughout your career. For example, you might identify skills to hone and refine through reflection, while also staying up to date on new advancements and developing best practices. Some things you can do to maintain your clinical competence include:


How Continuing Education Company Helps Maintain Clinical Competence

To maintain your clinical competence, keep learning, reviewing, and growing with Continuing Education Company. As a leader in the continuing medical education (CME) industry for over 30 years, Continuing Education Company knows what it means to maintain clinical competence. Our speakers and courses are devoted to helping physicians and physician assistants grow throughout their career and ultimately provide the best possible patient care.

Our online CME courses are engaging, foster professional development, and are flexible enough to fit into any schedule. Our live CME events feature incredible speakers who are at the forefront of developments in the medical community.

To find a course that meets your professional needs, browse our course catalog today, or check out our CME conference calendar to learn more about upcoming events!

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