Peer review in nursing: principles for successful practice

Penny Higgins

ANA-Maine Journal. 10.1 (Winter 2014): p4.

Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2014 Arthur L. Davis Publishing Agency

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Peer review in nursing: principles for successful practice

By Barbara Haag-Heitman PhD, RN and Vicki George, PhD, RN

While supervisory evaluation and self-evaluation have long been a part of nursing practice, it has been more difficult for individuals to consistently use peer evaluation.

“More than 20 years have passed since the first publication of nursing guidelines for peer review, yet no organization has demonstrated full implementation of the guidelines,” writes Barbara Haag-Heitman and Vicki George in Peer Review in Nursing: Principles for Successful Practice. The authors first briefly trace the history of professionalism in nursing, and cite peer review as a necessary step in this process as it relates to personal growth and ethical standards and responsibility to the public. They proceed to identify the need for relevant tools and subsequent research to effectively improve nursing practice and confirm nursing as a profession. The American Nurses Association (ANA) has, since its inception, been a standard-setter in professional and ethical standards; and, although other organizations and individuals have made valuable contributions, consistent usage continues to elude us.

After first making the reasons for peer evaluation clear, Haag-Heitman and George proceed with defining steps to bring about a change in practice to ease the transition to the routine use of these steps. Using a clear conceptual model, they describe peer review processes that could be adapted within shared governance structures and the guiding principles and educational processes necessary to introduce the process to all areas. Peer review education includes not only the bare facts, but rationales, new models of leadership and, often, interdisciplinary care of our patients. Also included is the need for peer and self-evaluation for those in more independent practice.

Once the authors have made their introduction and clearly defined a model and format for change, they go on to include specific examples of formats for change that are already in use. Some are based upon the ANA 1988 guidelines that were revised in 2009, others are specific descriptions of certain hospitals that have developed their own programs. Some identify approaches used as well as tools developed during the introduction of a systematic peer review. The Magnet Program format is followed throughout.

Space does not allow for extensive examples, but one focuses on the Illinois Decatur Memorial Hospital Nursing Department policy regarding peer review. The policy sets forth definitions of basic competency, advanced competency and certification/licensure. The competency process is delineated, with instructions for use. This is followed by the specific examples of Medication Reconciliation and Fall Prevention with descriptions of each step. A tool for each set of skills is included. It is a clear and useful example.

Based upon professional principles and reasoning, the authors offer ideas that are acceptable to individual nurses, hospitals and nursing departments in the growth of professional responsibility through a systematic peer review process. This book offers practical guidelines for this important subject–guidelines that are applicable in any setting.

More information about Peer Review in Nursing is available at

Reviewed by Penny Higgins, EdD, RN

Higgins, Penny

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition)

Higgins, Penny. “Peer review in nursing: principles for successful practice.” ANA-Maine Journal, Winter 2014, p. 4. Academic OneFile, Accessed 23 Jan. 2017.




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