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What is the Performance-Based Development System? - Things to Know About the PBDS Test

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Health Carousel Travel Nursing
September 8, 2022
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Nursing administrators are increasing the use of the Performance-Based Development System to ensure that travel nurses have the basic competencies needed to perform nursing duties and quality patient care at their respective institutions. 

Everything You Need to Know About PBDS Testing as a Travel Nurse

Many hospitals are requiring Performance-Based Development System (PBDS) testing. The PBDS, developed by Dorothy del Bueno, is an examination designed to test a nurse’s ability in three domains:

  • Critical-thinking skills (recognizing problems, setting priorities, managing risks)
  • Technical skills
  • Interpersonal skills (teamwork, conflict resolution)

Each PBDS includes general nursing questions and tests your knowledge of the nursing process. Assessments are divided into four practice areas:

  • Medical - Surgical
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  • Adult ICU and critical care
  • Obstetrics

This all-or-nothing, do-or-die, pass-fail test tends to be a point of concern for many travel nurses. Have no fear! With proper preparation, a clinically-competent travel nurse will pass the PBDS.

The Right Preparation Strategy Can Help You Achieve a Good Score

The first step in passing the PBDS is to know the details. It is a computer-based test with a duration of several hours. Testing for staff nurses takes an average of 5 hours, travel nurses may be offered a shorter version that lasts about 3 hours (plan on taking the full exam just in case). Most facilities offer computer-based testing, however, some hospitals may require a pencil-and-paper exam. 

Exam participants receive a scale score rating that essentially determines whether you pass or fail. If you pass, you can continue to your assignment. Sadly, if you do not pass and receive a score outside of the acceptable achievement level, you won’t be able to retake the PBDS or move on to the assignment.  

The PBDS is presented as a series of critical thinking exercises. You will watch a brief video of a simulated clinical situation and then answer questions in essay form - there are no multiple choice questions given. You will be asked to make the key diagnosis, identify life-threatening conditions, and write down your course of action.

Remember, there will be questions designed to assess your interpersonal skills, such as team building,  how would you handle a “difficult” family member, or working with a demanding physician. 

PBDS Tips and Tricks

Pay attention to the videos

The videos come at you quickly and contain critical information. Since you can’t rewind or re-watch (just like real life), take in the information as it comes. 

Look for what is wrong

Assume that something is wrong (or soon will be). 

Do not overthink the scenario

Remember what the PBDS is: a test to evaluate competency. If you are a practicing nurse, you have learned and developed the core skills needed to pass the test. When in doubt, it is better to add detail to your evaluation than to leave it out.

Know common conditions and serious scenarios

Hospitals want to know if you can handle yourself in serious situations.  Assume that your PBDS will cover all of the common serious diagnoses, such as, CVA (ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke), acute myocardial infarction, ketoacidosis, pulmonary embolism, pneumothorax, ileus, and respiratory or cardiac arrest.

Remember, with proper preparation, you can pass this important test. Just rely on your training, your skills, and all the intangible qualities that make you a nurse!

Author Bio

Lauren Rivera is a nationally certified neonatal intensive care nurse with over 15 years of experience. She serves as a nurse expert offering support and educational classes for women and their families from preconception through childhood. Lauren is also a freelance writer with works published on several nursing sites. She develops and curates content for various health care companies, and writes continuing education modules for other healthcare professionals. 

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