A comparative study of the clinical competence of community service practitioners: degree and diploma nursing programmes
According to Benner (2001 ), an individual moves through five stages: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient and expert. Competence is the measure or degree of a person's ability to cope with all aspects of the environment. It is expected that when an individual achieves competence, they possess the necessary knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes and professionalism required to perform a certain function. The purpose of the study was to compare the perceptions of the Community Service Practitioners (Degree versus Diploma) regarding their clinical competence in providing nursing care and to establish and compare the perceptions of Professional Nurses regarding the clinical competence of the Community Service Practitioners they supervise (Degree versus Diploma) in providing nursing care. The null-hypothesis stated that there is no difference in the clinical competence of Community Service Practitioners who completed a Degree nursing programme as compared to those who completed a Diploma nursing programme leading to registration as a Professional Nurse (R425). The research methodology was quantitative, using a comparative, descriptive, cross-sectional design. The target population of the study included a sample of all Community Service Practitioners who worked in Regional Hospitals in the Western Cape and the Professional Nurses who supervised them. Convenience sampling was used to select the sample for this research and data were collected by means of a five-point Likert-scale questionnaire for the Professional Nurses supervising the Community Service Practitioners and a three-point Likert-scale questionnaire for the Community Service Practitioners. Data was organized and analyzed by using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), Version 21. Descriptive statistics were used and findings were illustrated by means of descriptive tables and figures. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to calculate the null-hypothesis, which was retained. The results of the study indicated that there is no difference in the clinical competence, which included knowledge, skills and attitude, of Community Service Practitioners who completed an undergraduate Degree compared to those who completed a Diploma in nursing.