The Universal Core Competencies in Health Care










Are the most important health care competencies the ones that can’t be taught?

 What, in your opinion, are the core competencies for practitioners working with women and girls who have concurrent mental health and substance use problems?

This was the question that I posed to a group of about 100 interprofessional clinicians at a recent conference session titled “Women and Concurrent Disorders (Addiction and Mental Health)”.

I posed the question before referencing the core competency domains identified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s 2011 document Addressing the needs of women and girls: Developing core competencies for mental health and substance abuse service professionals:

 SAMHSA Core Competency Domains

Sex and gender differences

Relational approaches in working with women and girls

Family-centred needs

Special considerations during pregnancy

Women’s health and health care

Interprofessional collaboration

I was curious to hear what this group of experienced and seasoned health care providers had to say about the core competencies that were top of mind. Without hesitation, hands went up and people called out examples: 

Practitioner-Identified Core Competency Domains







It’s striking that no one mentioned any of the SAMHSA competencies, which focus on domain-specific knowledge and skills. Rather, the areas addressed by the audience emphasized process over content. Now, this is not to minimize the centrality of scientific and clinical knowledge and skills. Healthcare consumers expect this of us, and we as professionals expect it of ourselves.

But in those moments when the group named these key areas as most important, we collectively moved to the tacit underpinnings of excellence in healthcare: the human interactions that form the basis of helping. The things that are much harder to teach – if we can teach them at all.

View the full presentation on slideshare 

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