The wisdom that comes from revalidation

Mark Kelly muses on the benefits of self-examination and what can really be taken from feedback

Mark Kelly muses on the benefits of self-examination and what can really be taken from feedback.

Are we going round in circles when self-evaluating under new revalidation guidance?
Picture: Getty Images

So, revalidation arrived and a cloud of doom descended upon hapless nurses. A disconcerting unease threatened our equilibrium as a flurry of updates were delivered by practice champions and a mountain of documents were circulated in a frenzy to goad us into reflective action.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) innovation felt as welcome as a tarantula laying eggs in your ears. Visualise the death stare of our already overburdened managers as we struggled to deliver evidence to meet the specified criteria at the 11th hour.

Night sweats, panic and hysteria abounded, nightmares in which the NMC committee convenes to eradicate us from the register for our efforts at recording our experience and expertise. Many registrants considered themselves unworthy and unable to meet the standards required to be validated: the skills required seem agonisingly beyond our grasp.

Flawed and outdated

The old – Post Registration Education for Practice system – was deemed to be flawed and outdated. It required nurses and midwives to self-certify they had completed the specified practice requirements in their clinical area and they had completed 35 hours of continuing professional development.

I am unaware of any of my peers being called to verify the criteria by producing documented evidence to support their continued registration. And the NMC concedes that it only checked a small number of registrants.

The new requirements are more stringent, as registrants have to:

  • Complete at least 450 hours of practice.
  • Complete 35 hours of continuous professional development.
  • Collect feedback from a variety of sources.
  • Write at least five reflective accounts.
  • Hold a reflective discussion with another registrant.
  • And (the game changer) have compliance with the requirements checked by a third party.


The new arrangements mean that all registrants have to come up the mark and produce evidence that demonstrates their commitment to continued professional development.

While the NMC’s ruling council probably did not spend sleepless nights arriving at this new and improved system of revalidation, they have come with a pragmatic and logical solution and one may ask the question: ‘what took them so long to come up with a more evidence-based system?’

Questioning progress

Revalidation, carried out and delivered correctly, is leading to us all becoming at least a little more conscientious, thoughtful and better at our jobs. We should all be considering elements of our practice with a questioning mind and ask ourselves:

  • What have I learned?
  • How may my practice change or improve as a result?
  • How can I relate this learning to the Code of Practice?

On reflection

And as far as feedback from others goes, it could go either way: I would hazard a guess that, for some, the temptation may be to record glowing compliments and examples of good practice, which could contribute to an overinflated sense of self-worth and reinforce our delusions of competence.

But for most of us, it is an opportunity to honestly reflect upon criticism or complaints, or reflect on an area where we have slipped up and failed. While these are painful experiences and the temptation is to ignore and avoid dwelling on them, they are of course a more powerful learning tool in our professional development.

Negative feedback, if harnessed and assimilated correctly, can have far-reaching and profound influences on our practice for the better.

Whether we become better, wiser nurses after we have completed the revalidation process is a moot point. But I take solace in the words of Socrates, who said that the only true wisdom is in knowing that we know nothing.

This makes me a very wise man indeed.

About the author

Mark Kelly is a mental health manager at the Belfast Trust, Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

This article is for subscribers only