ANTS News and Discussion Forum

Communities of Practice

Communities of Practice

by Michelle Cameron -
Number of replies: 4

In our regional area we have a decentralised approach to clinical education. In order to prevent duplication, support neophyte nurse educators and contirbute to the profession of nurse education, we have started a Communitiies of Practice Group.

The "proponent/developer" of this concept is found here:

We have met a number of times, off campus, for lunch. We are just new at this and are feeling our way but have better outcomes from our groupings than any "formal ' meeting process we had before.

We meet once a month, usually the third Thursday. For the first few meetings I suggested topics and now we are sharing the opportunity to facilitate. Our Executive Director is aware of our group and is happy for us to be "off the radar".

We are a small group and have recently invited our tertiary colleagues to come along. Last meeting a university colleague came along. This led to a great opportunity to discuss professional development acess to both arenas (and a longer lunch). We discussed things and brain stormed some great potential CNE education across industry and education within our own regional area. This would have great benefits for our staff in reducing travel to access professional development.

Has anyone else had experience with the practice groups and do you have hidden shoals to advise use against?

I've been filling up on "A Guide to manageing knowledge- Cultivating communities of Practice " a great book by Wenger, McDermott & Snyder.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone and thought I might share our progress here. If that's okey?

We don't have the same people come every time but there are some core attendees. We have discussed "Teaching Portfolios", provided feedback on a state framework for clinical education, given guidence to a new educator, de breifed and last meeting discussed the National Registration and our CNE provider numbers etc etc. WE even talked about our practice group attracting 1 CNE point for us.


In reply to Michelle Cameron

Re: Communities of Practice

by Stuart Taylor -
Hi Michelle,

I hope you don't mind but I moved your Blog post to the general forum. I hope your question attracts some comment. Your experiences will be of value to others so even if initially you are not overwhelmed by responses we can only move forward with the help of members posting questions and offering responses.

It is an interesting comment you make about Our Executive Director is aware of our group and is happy for us to be "off the radar".

From my own experience some of the best work gets done "off the radar" and I think some organisations are now valuing the informal learning that occurs. Some are even facilitating informal learning as core strategy. One of the advantages of community based learning is the freedom it offers.

I have found you need to provide a way for people to come and go. Technology helps us a bit here by leaving a trail for people to follow. Some people are reluctant to contribute until they can see what other have done. That is why even small groups gain from keeping records and the Internet is giving us a way of doing that. I hope by recording as many of the ANTS events as possible it will encourage even more good work.


In reply to Stuart Taylor

Re: Communities of Practice

by Michelle Cameron -

thanks Stuart.

Last week I was unable to attend our communities of practice group and felt that I wanted to 'steady the stern' a bit. Then I realised that I was taking on an unwarranted parent role for the group. I took a deep breath and stepped away.

I found out that additional educators had come along and they discussed and fedback on a corporate document and had a great lunch!  An educator from another hospital drove some distance to attend and is hooked. They are a lone educator and apparently thought it a great idea.

One by product of the group has been the confidence building of attendees to strengthen "unoficial ties " officially through co-facilitation of programs in formal teaching calendars. A day program to address shared concerns regarding nursing clinical practice and competency has been developed and calendared for 2010 over a cup of coffee.

We have a new executive leader coming on board and I'm interested to see how they view our group.

I was thinking that this medium should provide an umbrella community of practice for us from a national perspective and like you Stuart would love to have others feedback on my comments. I'll just keep making them and perhaps someone in the lone and dreary world will respond!

In reply to Michelle Cameron

Re: Communities of Practice

by Christine Taylor -
Hi, your initiative sounds great. I think many nurse educators would be really interested in what your group is doing. I think it is a good idea to share what you are doing as a group. Perhaps you could write something and post it on this site on how you went about setting up a community of practice - and any problems encountered. I am sure this will enthuse others, as well as providing some direction, for other educators to start their own community where they can learn and share together. Also, I am part of a group that has reviewed the nurse teacher competencies and they are on this site with a survey for feedback. We would really appreciate it if your group could spare some time and discuss these competencies and feedback your comments to us. Thanks.
In reply to Christine Taylor

Re: Communities of Practice

by Michelle Cameron -


I've just logged back on after all the business of Christmas and new year. Naturally the really exciting thing for us in Queensland has been the formation of our very own branch of ANTS. 

I am hoping that my communities of practice colleagues will enthusiastically join! 

In the beginning..... I'm told that that's how all good stories start...

  • In order to get going I contacted my immediate hospital colleagues (other Nurse Educators) and asked them directly how they would feel about getting together once a month for lunch off campus and a chat. I found this easy as I have exisiting working relationships with them. I talked to them about the Communities of Practice idea.
  • I emailed to them a short explanation of what constituted a communities of practice and the fluid nature of the concept and added the links to Wegners internet site.  The thought of no agendas and no minutes but outcomes lured them in I think.
  • I coordinated a time and location and sent out the invitation via e-mail.  I made sure that as time drew near that I reminded them of the get together. I chose a small cafe within walking distance of the hospital that had free car parking. The food was a second thought, the anonimity of the venue was more important.
  • I volunteered to "pick them up" on the way to the venue and dropped by their offices as I went and asked them if they were ready.
  • I had in my mind a loose order for the discussion with the initial group and went over the concept of Communities of Practice (Cof p) with them. If the chatting had not started I had a back-up document to get the discussion going.
  • I have found that whilst mature Cof P are supposed to manage collectively topics and activities, a burgeoning one needs some direction.  I feel that it is really important to have something to discuss that can result in a positive outcome for the group for each get together. If no one suggests anything you suggest something.

This month (January) we are creating feedback on the National Registration Documents. It is important to send out any documents for feedback well before the CofP  so that people have a chance to look at them. February can be the ANTS Competency Standards!

I have found that there is always something that is buzzing around that needs discussing and some type of response. The development of joint training for staff is a great outcome. We had a 'drop out' group meet to develop a joint program for acute hospital staff which will run as a pilot in March.

Inspite of all that however it is okey to have lunch and general chatter, It's amazing what develops as future topics for discussion.

  • Don't be disheartened if only 2 of you turn up. Don't be tempted to cancel or postpone. Meet, greet and complete something and share the outcome with all those you had invited but did not attend. I have created a group e-mail which gets added to as people come along. Encourage people to invite others along. That's how our group has grown to include our university colleagues.
  • One thing I did was to inform my Director of Nursing that we were experimenting with the C of P and that we would be "off the radar" but that I would touch base with her every now and then about the group. She was excited about the idea and immediately saw the benifits of the group for the facility.


  • Remember that not all groups will be homogenous and that people with drift in and drift out. Personalities are personalities and sometimes you just need to give people space.thoughtful
  •  I found that I am having to be the driver of the group for  longer than I expected. You need to keep up your own enthusiasm.
  • Calendaring can be a big challenge. Best to set up some dates and times so that people can put them in their diaries for the year ahead of time.
  • It can be a challenge when providing feedback to organisations what to call yourselves. Everyone seems to need a formal label of some sort these days. I agonised for a while and asked the group who decided to just call themselves the Toowoomba Nurse Educators Communities of Practice Group. 
  • Some organisations may not be as accepting as ours for "under the radar" groups. You will need to discuss how best to approach this as a group.

So there you have it. I think on my first posting I put in some links and a reference text for Communities of Practice as well.