From Expert to Novice: Looking Through My Own Lenses

The Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition is about the five levels of competency used to describe skill acquisition in clinical nursing practice. While acquiring and developing skills people pass through the five levels of proficiency. These are novice/beginner, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert. All of these five different levels actually reflect changes in three aspects of skilled performance. These three areas are: a move from a reliance on abstract principles to the use of past concrete lessons or experiences; a change from perceiving a situation as multiple fragments, to seeing a more holistic view with a few relevant factors; and a move from detached observer to an active performer. Patricia Benner, the author and project director of a federally funded grant called Achieving Methods of Intraprofessional Consensus, Assessment and Evaluation Project (the AMICAE Project) used the Dreyfus Model to explain her theory on Novice to Expert.

The strongly theoretically grounded philosophy on novice to expert provides a framework that can support us nurses in our lifelong journey to learning and discovery through nursing practice, research and education. For us to become expert nurses in our respective fields of interest, we need experience and skill mastery. Our nursing experience can lead to the development of intuition, ethical/moral reasoning and personal knowledge. But what happens when it is the other way around? You have been working so hard over the past five to seven years the least and you have been performing outstandingly. You have already developed the confidence, innovativeness, and expertise in your specialty. Yet when you venture into something new, you have a plethora of emotions overwhelming you as you try to recall what comfort you have found in settling for what is familiar to you. You then feel ambivalent about the new task. You suddenly realize that exploring new areas of interest to help you grow in your career and develop yourself in the nursing profession, makes you become a novice again. Thus, from expert to novice you have transformed yourself and you end up thinking, “What have I done? Am I making the right decision? Is this the right path for my nursing career?” It honestly doesn’t feel good because it makes you seem awkward and dependent.

Traditionally, progression in the nursing career is one that is seen as development from novice to expert. At the start, we are used to rely on theoretical knowledge acquired in nursing school. As we become new nurses, we begin to adhere and respect the hospital rules and regulations. As we become more seasoned, we naturally shift into someone who is well able to combine both theoretical knowledge and experience. Being a seasoned nurse, we are enthusiastic, energetic, curious, ambitious, and internally motivated. All these phenomena that happens in us when we seem to have achieved all levels of proficiency in our career leads us to accept a new position that begins with an orientation and provides opportunity for us to become novice from being an expert. Being a novice generally makes you feel young, and you get to know everything by learning from others and the job as well.

From expert to novice, does not mean demotion of one’s position. Instead of looking at being a novice again as negative, we can perceive it as a necessary step to learning. You will only stop learning if you do not know how to accept with open arms the stage of being a novice. If you can’t stand exposing the fact that there are some things that you do not know then you are not open to being a novice. If you can stand feeling temporarily and situationally incompetent, then you are opening the world of possibilities and new opportunities that can teach you wonderful new experience.

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Freslyn Lim

About Freslyn Lim

I am currently a Registered Nurse by profession, a writer by passion, a nurse educator by essence and a word warrior by calling. I earned my Masters in Nursing major in Administration in March 2011 and had my clinical experience as Staff Nurse in the ICU, Pediatrics and NICU.

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