Defining the concept of expertise
The concept of expertise can be defined as a skill to perform with quality and excellence in a specific area, which requires intellectual and cognitive effort over a long period of time (Cioffi 2012, 424). In the Finnish language a word expert refers to knowing, evaluating or foresight. An expert has both practical expertise and strong theoretical knowledge. The expert is linked to different kinds of people, things and organizational networks (Sarajärvi 2011, 78.) Hytönen (2002) reviews expertise from the perspective of staff development. She defines expertise as a qualified achievement in a particular field which contains a number of specific skills and knowledge acquired by training and experience. As well as the ability to apply, evaluate and develop the know-how to understand and solve practical problems.
Specific knowledge of socially significant tasks or problems are common for expertise. It might be also associated with the power and invisible status. Expertise should, however, be seen as a habit of action which is linked to the knowledge, skills and emotional processes. In simple terms, an expert is someone who has a high level of education and a long work experience. An expert has definitely a better knowledge of a particular area, roles and their functions than an inexperienced green worker. Expertise is always linked with the activities and situations and it develops and manifests itself increasingly in community networks (Sarajärvi 2011, 78; 91.) Who defines your expertise after all? I think everyone has a certain degree of expertise of some area. In some work fields the young age gives the best performance while in other areas it is impossible to achieve excellence. I believe there is no actual consensus as whether to think about the age, career or competence in terms of high-level skills. It is often difficult to determine which performance has been the best for the person.
Expertise in healthcare
Expertise in healthcare is the result of a long process. Theoretical knowledge provides only the basis for expertise but the development requires knowledge based on experience which takes place in real-world environments. Common competencies are the basis for expertise. A competency describes the professional qualifications and ability to perform professional tasks. Changes happening in the environment of healthcare make work more demanding and more independent. Network know-how has brought a new perspective to healthcare expertise and development of the evidence-based practice at an international level (Sarajärvi 2011, 77.)
Masses of healthcare professionals are going to retire in the near future and the presence of less experienced employees is challenging the preservation of expertise in healthcare. According to Cioffi (2012, 424) healthcare leaders need to address this loss of expertise by capturing and transferring the knowhow held in the workplace. Thus an organization needs to understand the expertise that employees possess and identify those who hold expert knowledge that is an important and irreplaceable organizational resource. In fields with a practical basis like many professionals in healthcare, tacit knowledge is highly present and if lacking, it can lead to negative consequences with safety (Cioffi 2012, 423–428.) Cioffi (2012, 425) also introduces a couple of strategies like mentorship programs and use of video technology actions for capturing valuable clinical expertise. I think capturing that unique tacit knowledge from employees is most important for the preservation of expertise. Otherwise it will vanish with the retiring workers.
After all it is difficult to find the right words to open up the concept of expertise in Finnish. I noticed that in international literature about expertise were discussed very often precisely the skills and the conclusion and not so much about knowing. Also capturing and managing the expertise of healthcare professionals can be tricky when it comes to tacit knowledge. Of course continuing education and professional development programmes that promote expertise in healthcare practice are necessary. I have also noticed in my work place that retirements and continuous cost-cutting in the organization jeopardizes expertise.
Miscellaneous trainings and jobs in different clinical laboratories have given me the impression of versatility of my work field. I have over seven-year experience in the field of pathology and my professional identity has greatly grown through working experience and training courses. I can guide and train the personnel of the work unit. I can use data for the development of services. I can make decisions independently and rationally. In my work I have to justify every decision, at least to myself, so that I can be sure of the correctness of my solution. I can humbly say that expertise is an endless road of development but, however, I do have the courage to describe myself as an expert in the field of pathology. “Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience.” – Denis Waitley
Hytönen, T. 2002. Exploring the Practice of Human Resource Development as a Field of Professional Expertise. Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä. Viitattu 2.1.2014. https://jyx.jyu.fi/dspace/handle/123456789/13366
Ciofﬁ, J. 2012. Loss of clinical nursing expertise: A discussion paper. International Journal of Nursing Practice; 18.
Sarajärvi, A. 2011. Tulevaisuuden erikoisosaaminen erikoissairaanhoidossa. Turun Ammattikorkeakoulun julkaisu. Raportteja 113. Tampere: Tampereen Yliopistopaino Oy. Viitattu 2.1.2014. http://julkaisut.turkuamk.fi/isbn9789522162038.pdf