Stages of Benner’s Novice to Expert Theory

Stages of Benner’s Novice to Expert Theory: Benner’s Novice to Expert Theory was introduced by Patricia Benner in 1982. The theory discussed how nurses nurture their skills and understanding of patient care from the time they venture into nursing practice until they become fully qualified nurses who can handle complex cases. Benner’s Novice to Expert Nursing Theory has been extensively utilized in nursing to increase nurse retention and build experience with new nurse administrators and managers. The model discusses how new nurses begin at the novice stage and progress through several stages as they gain skills, knowledge and experience to become experts. The Five Stages of Benner’s Novice to Expert Theory are a novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient and expert (Benner, 1982).

The Novice Stage

Novice stage is the first stage among the Stages of Benner’s Novice to Expert Theory. This is the initial stage in the model, a stage that describes new nurses with no experience in nursing. It is the stage where new nurses are taught simple and objective nursing attributes that can be identified easily. In the leadership realm, this stage is considered as the first management job where individuals’ experiences tend to be inflexible, limited and require further professional development and growth. Benner (1982) considers individuals at this stage to be lacking experience and hence the inability to utilize discretionary judgment. At this stage, individuals struggle to decide the tasks that are relevant to accomplish because there are no existing rules to regulate performance in real-life situations.

Advanced Beginner Stage

The Advanced Beginner Stage is the second among the five Stages of Benner’s Novice to Expert Theory. As Novice gains skills and knowledge, they enter the advanced beginner stage, a stage that Benner (1982) considered comprising of individuals who have been involved in several real-life nursing experiences that they can easily recall some of the important aspects when they encounter similar cases in future. However, mastering the rules and guidelines that have been taught was considered to be the main problem faced by advanced beginners. Just like the novices, the need to support advanced beginners in clinical settings by setting priorities was considered crucial. For instance, advanced nurse leaders were considered to have some experience but needed some influence and guidance from mentors to set priorities and provide constructive feedback.

Competent Stage

The competent stage is the third among the five Stages of Benner’s Novice to Expert Theory. The competent stage is also known as nurse manager is the stage where individuals can prioritize tasks on their own based on past experiences. Benner (1982) described individuals at this stage to be competent enough, just like people who have been practicing for two to three years and their actions can be seen in terms of goals and plans. Competent people were considered to have the ability to work in an efficient and organized manner because they are conscious and deliberate in planning. The only weaknesses recorded by people at this stage were the lack of multitasking and flexibility capabilities like proficient leaders, although they were able to plan consciously using the abstract and analytic principles that focus on long term goals and plans.

The Proficient Stage

The proficient stage is the fourth among the five Stages of Benner’s Novice to Expert Theory. As competent people continued to practise and gain more skills, knowledge and experience, they entered the proficient stage, a stage where individual performances were guided by maxims because they could see situations in their entirety. Maxims were described as pieces of evidence that provided direction to take important actions in different situations. Proficient nurses were considered to have a holistic understanding of situations at hand which allowed them to make more advanced decisions.

The Expert Stage

The expert stage is the final stage among the five Stages of Benner’s Novice to Expert Theory. The final stage in the model was the expert stage, a stage where individuals were considered experts because they possessed extensive knowledge of concepts and situations that allowed them to have confidence and instinctive grasp of complex situations. Individuals at this stage no longer relied on guidelines, maxims and rules because they had become part and parcel of them. At this stage, individuals could grasp concepts, analyze situations and come up with strategies to address the situation without necessarily consulting rules and guidelines.

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