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How does a novice differ from a more experienced practitioner?

We at the CSC Collaborative advocate for professional competence to be considered as a dynamic quality, that is expressed in the context practice. This was perhaps best articulated by Epstein & Hundert[1] in 2002 who said that competence is developmental, impermanent and context-specific. Competence is not well characterized by service delivery meeting a minimum standard, and it’s not solely about the practitioner’s possession of knowledge and skills, but rather about their meaningful application in the client’s personal situation.

For obvious reasons, initial (entry-to-practice) registration in a profession must be dependent upon a candidate achieving a minimum standard – the ability to apply an agreed-to, basic knowledge and skill set that is considered to be necessary for novice practice. But that knowledge and skill set is insufficient for competent practice, in varying settings, across the career span.

In relatively few select professions, regulators or certification organizations may provide forms of credentialling for more ‘advanced’ or ‘specialized’ practice, but in other fields of work, professionals are more-or-less on their own when it comes to managing the advancement of their performance across their career-span. This is where understanding of our Framework for Career-Span Competence can be so helpful!

What, then, is to be expected as the novice knowledge and skill set begins to evolve over time? Without some model to understand this key transition, many professionals are left unsupported as they seek to achieve mastery or expertise in their field.

Here is a simple performance-based chart to help distinguish between a novice and a more experienced practitioner:


[1] Epstein RM & Hundert EM. Journal of the American Medical Association, 287, 226-235 (2002).

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