What is a Professional Portfolio?

What is a Professional Portfolio?

16 | Volume 93, Issue 3 | Ohio Nurses Review | www.ohnurses.org

Creating a Nursing Portfolio By Margaret K. Burns, RN-BC, CCRC, BSN, MS


Portfolios are no longer solely the domain of artists, architects, photographers, and models. They are considered an essen- tial tool in demonstrating professional accomplishments and documenting professional growth for a variety of professions (Williams, & Jordan, 2007).

What is a Professional Portfolio? A professional portfolio is evidence of the nurse’s skills, achievements, and professional experience (Dennison, 2007). A resume or curriculum vita (CV) is part of the portfolio. There are two kinds of professional portfolios:

1. Growth and Development Portfolio and 2. Best Work Portfolio.

A Growth and Development Portfolio depicts evidence of the nurse’s education and achievements. It is used to plan continuing education and professional development.

A Best Work Portfolio is a collection of materials from the Growth and Development Portfolio for review by others for a specific purpose as a promotion, award or an evaluation. Select items that are most relevant for the position, promotion, or recognition.

Who uses portfolios? Nurses, throughout the world, use portfolios. International- ly, nurses in Australia, are required to develop and maintain portfolios that demonstrate the assessment of their practice, the currency of their practice and continuing professional develop- ment (CPD). These nurses have an annual review process.

In 2013, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) in the Certification through Portfolio General Handbook, outlines an alternative method for certifying registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses in specialties where a certification exam is unavailable. An example is the “Genetic Clinical Nurse” cre- dentialing process, which requires a professional portfolio.

In addition to certification requirements for some specialties, the nurse can use a portfolio to document competencies and achievements during evaluations, and for applications regarding promotions or awards. A professional portfolio, which outlines the Advanced Practice Nurse’s qualifications, “can be helpful in facilitating the credentialing and privileging processes (Klein- pell, Hravnak, Hinch, & Llewellyn, 2008).

Why create a portfolio? There are at least three reasons to create a portfolio: 1. Self Promotion; 2. Evidence of Outcomes; and 3. Structure and Direction.

Self Promotion The nurse can show the future employer or current manager competencies, and accomplishments! The nursing student is required to document clinical experiences as part of the course requirements. The novice nurse could compile descriptions of work assignments and learning mastery as part of the orienta- tion. The experienced nurse, while preparing for a promotion, consideration of an award, advancement on a clinical ladder, or appointment to a community or professional organization posi- tion, can use a portfolio for the process.

Evidence of Outcomes Regulatory agencies, accrediting bodies and credentialing boards are seeking evidence of nursing competence (Dion, & Smolens- ki, 2008). Examples include the documents required with the Magnet Recognition Program and for grant applications.

Structure and Direction By compiling and examining the collection of documents in the portfolio, the nurse can identify areas of practice, which need

www.ohnurses.org | Ohio Nurses Review | Volume 93, Issue 3 | 17

attention. Goal setting, the delineation of concrete plans to elim- inate deficiencies and to obtain new competencies should follow this reflection. This process needs to occur at least every 6-12 months. Collect – Reflect – Assess – Plan!

What are the parts of a nursing portfolio? The portfolio can “showcase professional accomplishments” (Williams, & Jordan, 2007).

Elements in a Nursing Portfolio Although the following list is not exhaustive, it provides a start for amassing the document: • Demographic data on a cover page • Table of Contents • Education validation with copies of transcripts • Professional license verification and certifications • Professional experiences • Professional memberships • Teaching roles and responsibilities • Leadership activities as preceptor or committee chair • Awards, recognitions, and promotions • Consultations • Grants • Audio and video productions • Publications and scholarly work • Poster presentations • Recent presentations • Community activities and service • Continuing education certificates and records of attendance at

professional programs; keep the written course objectives and handouts

• Evaluations from managers, peers, attendees, and students • Notes of appreciation and letters of recommendation • Current professional references • Resume or Curriculum Vita • Business cards • Analysis: identify strengths, areas for improvement, goals

(short and long term), and plans to meet future goals with a timeline

Remember to use only objective information that can be verified. Always maintain patient confidentiality. Additionally, follow the facility’s policies and procedures regarding informa- tion sharing with others.

How to start the process: • Collect the documents. • File the information as it becomes available. Place items

chronologically, beginning with the most recent data. • Several times per year and as needed, transfer this information

to a formal professional portfolio as a plain three ring binder. Add index tabs.

• Summarize the work, reflect on the significance of the work, and review the work in light of career goals and employment expectations, at least yearly.

Additional Tips • Put each continuing education certificate with the correspond-

ing course advertisement, objectives and class handout, in a clear plastic sheet protector.

• Update regularly. • Maintain the professional appearance of the document: neat,

organized, and complete. • Edit, and spell check to eliminate typographical and grammat-

ical errors. • Add, remove and replace items as applications, evaluations, or

other professional activities as needed for specific projects.

Does the portfolio need to be electronic? In this digital age, more organizations are requiring electronic documents to standardize and manage data. The following tips can assist in this process: • Use a recent electronic resume, certification application or

some other professional project to begin. Simply cut and paste the information into a word processing program. Edit this information to create a uniform document.

• Scan paper documents into the program. • Save a copy on a “portable electronic medium” as a compact

disc. • Back up the files regularly.

Conclusion The nursing portfolio is more than a collection of documents. “It allows nurses to stretch and reach beyond their day-to-day ex- pectations and explore ways to advance both themselves and the profession. Along the way, the nurse accepts accountability for his or her growth and development” (Williams, & Jordan, 2007). From the small beginnings of a brief resume or application, the nurse is able to build a powerful document, which aids in career advancement and competency improvement. Consider this activ- ity an essential part of professional practice.

Would you like to see an example of a nursing portfolio? Contact Molly Homan, mhoman@ohnurses.org.

“Portfolios are no longer solely the domain of artists, architects, photographers, and models. They are considered an essential tool in demonstrating professional accomplishments and documenting professional growth for a variety of professions.”


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