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J Prof Nurs. 2007 Mar-Apr;23(2):83-90.

Advanced nursing roles in critical care--a natural or forced evolution?

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  • 1Southampton University Hospitals Trust, Southampton, England, UK.


Meeting the expectation of delivering safe, effective, and timely health care services within current financial and workforce envelopes requires all health care clinicians to refine and adapt to their clinical roles. The arena of critical care is currently receiving increasing scrutiny regarding developing dedicated advanced practice roles. This is challenging to critical care nurses who historically neither have been exposed to nor have chosen to engage in such specific role developments. The critical care nursing community has, on the whole, embraced previous role expansions within the limits of existing group practices rather than an evolution of new subspecialties. International comparisons demonstrate that critical care nurses in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia are all facing common health policy drivers. Although there are some similarities in addressing these challenges, the solutions remain at various stages of development. The natural history framework of Bucher [Work and Occupations 1988;15:131-147] provides a useful and supportive tool to understand how it is necessary and natural for specialties within occupational groups to emerge to meet changing health care needs. A shared concern providing challenges at national and international levels involves the coordination of educational standards as well as competencies and clear articulation of the leadership component of advanced practice roles. These areas must be addressed to enable the international critical care community to naturally transform and evolve into fully established and legitimate advanced practitioners.

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