Table 3

Novice to expert: excellence and power in clinical nursing practice (summarised from Benner18)

The novice or beginner has no experience in the situations in which they are expected to perform. The novice lacks confidence to demonstrate safe practice and requires continual verbal and physical cues. Practice is within a prolonged time period and he/she is unable to use discretionary judgement.
Advanced beginners demonstrate marginally acceptable performance because the nurse has had prior experience in actual situations. He/she is efficient and skilful in parts of the practice area, requiring occasional supportive cues. May/may not be within a delayed time period. Knowledge is developing.
Competence is demonstrated by the nurse who has been on the job in the same or similar situations for 2 or 3 years. The nurse is able to demonstrate efficiency, is coordinated and has confidence in his/her actions. For the competent nurse, a plan establishes a perspective, and the plan is based on considerable conscious, abstract, analytic contemplation of the problem. The conscious, deliberate planning that is characteristic of this skill level helps achieve efficiency and organisation. Care is completed within a suitable time frame without supporting cues.
The proficient nurse perceives situations as a whole rather than in terms of chopped up parts or aspects. Proficient nurses understand a situation as a whole because they perceive its meaning in terms of long-term goals. The proficient nurse learns from experience what typical events to expect in a given situation and how plans need to be modified in response to these events. The proficient nurse can now recognise when the expected normal picture does not materialise. This holistic understanding improves the proficient nurse’s decision-making; it becomes less laboured because the nurse now has a perspective on which of the many existing attributes and aspects in the present situation are the important ones.
The expert nurse has an intuitive grasp of each situation and zeroes in on the accurate region of the problem without wasteful consideration of a large range of unfruitful, alternative diagnoses and solutions. The expert operates from a deep understanding of the total situation. His/her performance becomes fluid and flexible and highly proficient. Highly skilled analytic ability is necessary for those situations with which the nurse has had no previous experience.