Aim. Research focusing on competence assessment of practicing nurses has recently increased. However, few generic instruments are available for this purpose. This study reports cultural validation of the Italian version of the Nurse Competence Scale (NCS, English version) by exploring nurses’ perceptions of the use of the NCS instrument.

Metods. Content validity of the Italian version of the NCS was assessed during the translation and back-translation process. Thereafter, cultural validity was further explored by conducting self-assessments and semi-structured interviews with 10 nurses, who practise medicine, cardiology and intensive care wards. First, the Italian version of the 73-item NCS was used to assess nurses’ competence levels and the frequency of using competencies in practice settings. Second, semi-structured interviews were conducted to evaluate nurses’ perceptions of the use of the instrument.

Results. The advanced beginners obtained a high overall competence level and the experienced nurses a very high overall competence level. These results are similar with the earlier findings of nurse competence levels with the NCS. The overall frequency of using NCS competencies in clinical practice indicated good cultural validity of the instrument. The instrument was considered easy to understand and to complete, and the Italian version was considered to express the domain of nursing. However, a need to make semantic specifications for some items for the Italian version was pointed out.

Conclusions. This explorative pilot study reports a first phase cultural validation process. Carefully performed translation alone does not ensure validity of translated instrument. Interview method is recommended to deepen the understanding of concept in question and the content validity of the instrument. The results support previous research findings of the use of the NCS instrument and show that it could be very useful in competence assessment for Italian nurses.

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