Experience of being an advanced practice nurse within Australian acute care settings: a systematic review of qualitative evidence

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Abstract

Background

Nationally and internationally, advanced practice nurses are working under various titles and in different contexts to address gaps within healthcare systems. Analysis of advanced practice roles in different countries has been undertaken, but due to variations in cultural, geographical and professional factors, it is difficult and perhaps ineffectual to compare roles between countries. Contextual factors may also affect the actual experience of being an advanced practice nurse. A systematic review was therefore undertaken of qualitative evidence on the experience of being an advanced practice nurse in Australia, to provide deeper understanding of the role in the defined context.

Methods

The review followed the method for qualitative synthesis as per the Joanna Briggs Institute. An extensive search was undertaken of databases and online resources to find published and unpublished studies. Papers from 1990 to October 2011 which met specified inclusion criteria were appraised using the Joanna Briggs Institute Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument.

Results

Three published studies and one unpublished dissertation were included in the review. From these studies, 216 findings were extracted and these were formed into 18 categories. Six meta-syntheses grouped under the headings of expert knowledge, confidence, education, relationships, negative experiences and patient-centred experience were created. Organisational factors impact greatly on the experience, professionally and personally.

Conclusions

Heterogeneity of role titles makes synthesis a difficult process, but contextualising the population provides a pragmatic approach to informing the status of the advanced practice nurse discourse. The review identifies positive and negative experiences of being an advanced practice nurse in Australian acute care settings with overlapping and intertwining findings that reinforce the complexity of the role.

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