Defining nurse regulation and regulatory body performance: a policy Delphi study

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Professional self-regulation is a privilege and needs to deliver against the underpinning social contract between the professional and citizens who are receiving care and services.


The aims of this study were to generate, international consensus on a contemporary definition of professional nurse regulation; and to articulate the key features of a highly performing regulatory body, and postulate which regulatory model and administrative arrangements are best suited to attain the key features.


A highly diverse and globally recruited random stratified sample of 75 experts was approached to participate in a classic three-round policy Delphi study. Quantitative and qualitative data were generated and subjected to thematic and statistical analysis. Both non-parametric and descriptive statistical techniques were used in relation to quantitative data.


Consensus on a revision of the current International Council of Nurses definition of professional nurse regulation was developed and a set of 47 key features of high-performing regulatory bodies was agreed. Although a strong preference for the delegated self-regulatory model (43%) and single-board administrative approach (48%) was expressed the underlying rationale for such a preference was unclear.


The research makes an important contribution to an underdeveloped field of study. The case for conducting more quantitative investigations to ascertain the best regulatory model and associated administrative approach has been made.

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