Understanding nursing scope of practice: A qualitative study
MetadataShow full item record
Background: The past decade has seen increased patient acuity and shortened lengths of stays in acute care hospitals resulting in an intensification of the work undertaken by nursing staff in hospitals. This has ultimately led to a reconsideration of how nursing staff manage their work. Aim: The aim of this study was to understand how medical and surgical nurses from two Australian hospitals conceive their scope of practice in response to the available grade and skill mix of nurses and availability of unlicensed health care workers and other health care professionals. By exploring these meanings, this study aimed to build an understanding of how nursing work patterns were shifting in the face of changing patient acuity, patient profiles and nursing skill mix. Method: A constructivist methodology, using critical incident technique (CIT) was used to explore nurses' role and scope of practice. Twenty nurses, 16 registered nurses (RNs) and four enrolled nurses (ENs), discussed significant events during which they perceived they were undertaking either patient care activities they should be undertaking, or activities that should have either been delegated or undertaken by a higher level of care provider. Findings: Five themes emerged from the data: (1) good nurses work in proximity to patients providing total patient care; (2) safeguarding patients; (3) picking up the slack to ensure patient safety; (4) developing teamwork strategies; and (5) privileging patients without mental illness or cognitive impairment. A pattern woven throughout these themes was the idea of negotiation. RNs were struggling with the notions that direct patient care was sometimes not the best use of their time, and delegation did not equate with laziness. Conclusion: Negotiation has become a fundamental aspect of nursing practice given the variety of nursing care providers currently employed in acute care settings. Negotiation has allowed nurses to redefine appropriate nurse-patient proximity, promote patient safety and find innovative ways of working in nursing teams.
International Journal of Nursing Studies
Nursing not elsewhere classified