The challenge of the standardization of nursing specializations in Europe

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The evolution of health care is driving the need for specialist nursing knowledge. Specialist nurses have undertaken a formal training that focuses on a specific clinical area or population and are legitimated by a professional award or legal status. Specialist nurses are better able to provide the most specific and most appropriate care for both people and populations.


This paper considers nursing's loose understanding of ‘specialization’ and the impact this has on those who seek employment outside their own nation but within the family of nations known as the European Union (EU). There is a lack of standardization for nursing specializations across the European Union that leads to lack of mobility across countries.

Sources of evidence:

Reports were reviewed from within the European Union, including specialist nursing groups and regulatory nursing bodies.


Nurse specialists can be regarded as operating at nursing's ‘leading edge’; however, it is here that nursing lacks organization and common standards. This is readily apparent in a EU bound together by the principle of freedom of movement and common professional and academic standards.


It is now time for European Union nurses to look beyond the common standards for pre-registration courses and to consider the development of common standards for specialist nursing. Historical attempts to achieve common standards for specialist nursing have largely been unsuccessful due to the diversity of approaches to nurse specialization. It is time now for this challenge to be re-addressed so that specialist nurses can more freely work throughout the European Union.

Implications for nursing policy:

There is a pressing need for policy makers to define specialist nursing and to enable European Union-wide standards.

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