Experienced nurses and midwives are increasingly taking on complex, autonomous and expert roles commonly referred to as ‘advanced practice’.
This is according to independent research commissioned by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. However, it is unclear whether people who use services and the public understand the advanced practitioner’s role and what it means for them.
The NMC says that this matters because delivery of the level of practice that advanced practitioners are undertaking can carry inherent risks to patients and people using services. However, people may not know what it means when their nurse or midwife describes themselves as an advanced practitioner – and even those who understand can’t necessarily expect the same level of knowledge, skill and experience from different advanced practitioners with similar roles and titles as this responsibility typically lies with employers.
The NMC commissioned The Nuffield Trust to look at the existing literature on regulation of advanced practice, and international approaches to regulating advanced practice. It also considered the advanced practice landscape in all four countries of the UK, in conversation with key senior/relevant stakeholders. The consensus from the interviews and focus groups was that some form of specific regulation was needed for advanced practice in nursing and midwifery.
The research found great variation in how professionals enter and practice in these roles across the UK. This means there’s no single definition of advanced practice, nor any consistent outcomes, or standards of education or proficiency.
For example, current routes to advanced practice status include higher education such as a masters’ degree. However, there’s substantial variation in courses, with some designed to meet different course outcomes than others and therefore including different content.
The Council discussed the findings of this early research at a recent meeting (17 May). The research will inform further lines of enquiry as the NMC continues its review of the advanced practice landscape, including engaging with the public and people who use services, before presenting Council with options to consider later this year.