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Maintaining professional standards: nursing portfolios

Maintaining professional standards: nursing portfo
Photo: Professional nursing portfolio
Student nurses, nurses and midwives are required to keep track of their continuing professional development goals, accomplishments, knowledge and skills in a professional portfolio, which shouldn’t be confused with a resume.

What is a professional portfolio?

A nursing portfolio is a collection of all achievements, continuing professional development (CPD) activities, competencies, experiences, and professional goals.

A nursing portfolio is used to satisfy the legal requirements of registration and to show prospective employers a drive and commitment to the profession, explained Nurse Consultant Claire Dunkley

Why is a portfolio important?

Annie Butler, Federal Secretary ANMF, said the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) require nurses and midwives to complete continuing professional development (CPD) that is set out by minimum requirements.
Meeting minimum standards is crucial, as when nurses and midwives apply to renew their registration or endorsement, they are required to declare that they have complied with this standard.

“Their compliance may be audited. It may also be checked if the NMBA receives a notification about them.

“Nurses and midwives are required to maintain records of their CPD activity for five years in case they are audited.

“If they are required to provide the NMBA with evidence of their CPD activities, their professional portfolio will help them to demonstrate they have met the CPD requirements,” said Ms Butler.

What should be included in a portfolio?

There are ten essential components to a professional nursing portfolio.

  1. Date
  2. Identified learning needs
  3. Action plan
  4. Type of activity
  5. Description of the topic
  6. Reflection on learning
  7. Application to practice
  8. Evidence
  9. Hours

What do you put into a nursing portfolio?

Nurses and midwives should put every professional experience into their portfolio, from annual professional development reviews to formal education, said Ms Dunkley.

  • All in-services and workshops attended within an organisation and externally (include knowledge gained and it applies to practice.
  • Conferences (you can give in-services to staff to demonstrate your willingness to upskill your colleagues to achieve best patient outcomes).
  • Work experiences – from a difficult patient case, to ‘acting up’ in different positions, and any leadership opportunities.
  • Further formal and informal studies undertaken.
  • Competencies (all workplaces require competencies for practice).
  • Employment records.
  • Annual professional development reviews.
  • Articles read and reviewed.
  • Evidence of leadership or teaching (precepting of students, coordinator of shifts).
  • Service appreciation awards.
  • Reflective practice.

How do you put a nursing portfolio together?

Nurses and midwives can use the NMBA or ANMF template to record the date, source, identified learning needs, action plan, type of activity, description of the topic, reflection on learning, application to practice, evidence and hours.
ANMF Branches also provide members with a hard copy and/or electronic template to assist in documenting CPD.

It’s important to keep track of all continuing professional development throughout a nursing or midwifery career. All certificates and documentation can be collated in a display folder or recorded digitally via online tools and Apps.

The following tools will help in portfolio management:

What type of professional development is the best?

Completing a range of CPD activities, including formal and informal learning activities, throughout a registration period and recording them in the portfolio is key.

“CPD activities must be relevant to your area of practice and have clear aims and objectives.

“Ideally the types of activities are broad and varied,” said Ms Butler.

Examples of professional development activities

  • Postgraduate studies
  • Attending conferences
  • Workshops and seminars
  • In-service education
  • Researching new procedures or medicines
  • Reviewing legislative or policy changes impacting practice
  • Participating in journal clubs
  • Authoring a book chapter
  • Having an article published in a peer-reviewed journal
  • Attending short courses

“The ANMF not only offers many of these learning opportunities but also supports members to undertake a wide range of CPD activities that contribute to their professional practice portfolio,” said Ms Butler.

Tips on creating and maintaining a portfolio

As you only have two weeks to provide portfolio information for the NMBA should you be audited, you need to ensure that it is up to date and easily accessible, said Ms Butler. 

“Keeping an electronic record is ideal as it makes it easier to update as you go. A hard copy backup is also recommended.

“Don’t forget to include any self-directed learning and mandatory workplace learning activities you may have done.

“For CPD to be effective, make a plan, choose a range of activities and always remember to record your reflections on your learning in your portfolio,” said Ms Butler.

Ms Dunkley, advises:

  • Keep a record of everything you do and add it to your portfolio.
  • Use the online platforms as they have done that hard work for you and it looks professional.
  • Update your portfolio quarterly – this way you’ll be up to date and also aware if you are due to add to your CPD.

  • Take the portfolio to every interview to stand out from the crowd.
  • Take every opportunity presented, you never know what doors it will open.
  • Reflect on your own practice regularly.

“Nursing can take you and your career in many directions.

“So, think outside the square – nursing isn’t limited to hospitals and clinics,” said Ms Dunkley.


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Haley Williams

Haley Williams has a Bachelor of Communication in Journalism and over a decade of experience in the media, marketing and communications industries.

She is a widely published journalist with a particular interest in writing magazine features on parenting, health, fitness, nutrition and education.

Before becoming a freelance journalist, Haley worked as a writer for NeoLife (a worldwide nutrition company), News Limited and APN News & Media.

Haley also has extensive experience as an SEO Content Writer and Digital Marketing Strategist.