Developing a Professional Portfolio in Nursing

Marilyn H. Oermann

A professional portfolio is a collection of care fully selected materials that document the nurse’s competencies and illustrate the expertise of the nurse. Since a portfolio is developed over time, it also provides a way of monitoring professional development. By periodically reviewing the portfolio, nurses can assess their progress in meeting personal and professional goals and can better plan their careers in nursing. This article describes professional portfolios, their uses in nursing, and how to develop and maintain one.

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Marilyn H. Oermann, PhD, RN, FAAN, is a professor in the College of Nursing at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

All nurses should maintain a professional portfolio to reflect on their own devel-opment of knowledge and skills over time, present evidence of competencies, and market themselves when apply-ing for career ladder positions or new jobs in nursing. A professional portfolio contains materials that document the nurse’s competencies and experiences and illustrate the career path of the nurse. Artists, photographers, designers, and other professionals use portfolios to showcase their work for clients and potential employers. Portfolios in nurs-ing accomplish the same purpose —they showcase the nurse’s background and expertise for others to review. This article describes professional portfolios, their uses in nursing, and how to develop and maintain one.

Professional Portfolios

A professional portfolio is a compila-tion of carefully selected materials that

document the nurse’s competencies. The materials placed in a portfolio illustrate the background, skills, and expertise of the nurse (Trossman, 1999). The portfolio also provides a way of monitoring the nurse’s own professional development. By periodi-cally reviewing the portfolio, nurses can assess their progress in meeting personal and professional goals and can better plan their careers in nursing. The portfolio does not replace the resume or curriculum vitae, but pro-vides information not available from these alone. A resume and curriculum vitae list the educational institutions attended, the positions held, and other background information about the nurse. The portfolio provides evi-dence of the competencies and expertise of the nurse developed as a result of these experiences.

Types of Portfolios

There are two types of portfolios, best-work and growth and development (Gaberson & Oermann, 1999; Oer-mann & Gaberson, 1998). Best-work portfolios provide evidence of the nurse’s competencies and expertise. These portfolios are used as documen-tation for career ladder promotions, job applications, annual performance reviews, accreditations, initial and continuing certification, and situa-tions in which other people will be reviewing the portfolio. These portfo-lios contain carefully selected materi-als that are organized, labeled, and prepared for review by others. Growth and development portfo-lios are designed for nurses to monitor

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