Researching the implementation of pioneering roles in nursing and midwifery
Nursing Times Research, 12, (1), . (doi:10.1177/1744987106073582).
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This paper presents research on the implementation of pioneering roles in nursing and midwifery in the United Kingdom—namely lecturer practitioners, consultant nurses and nurse registrars. It seeks to critique the empirical insights gained from studying new roles aimed at better integrating distinct aspects of nursing and midwifery, at solving long-standing ‘problems’ in nursing and midwifery, at extending traditional roles and at improving and advancing practice, education and research.
The paper draws upon knowledge derived from three empirical projects—an ethnographic study and survey of the role of lecturer practitioners, conducted in one setting in the UK (Lathlean, 1997), a study of the role of consultant nurses within healthcare Trusts (Lathlean and Masterson, 2004) and an action-based evaluation of an innovative work based pilot training programme for the development of nurse registrars as aspiring consultant nurses (Surridge and Lathlean, 2006). The paper sets these within the context of an extensive literature on lecturer practitioners and consultant nurses, and encompasses both a national and international perspective through the inclusion of UK, North American and Australian experiences.
The theoretical understandings gleaned from these studies include the apparent inevitability of certain challenges in new roles such as role ambiguity and role overload, the need for organisational commitment to establish and sustain such roles, the variability of roles and the uncertainty as to the achievements of these posts or, at the very least, the extent to which these achievements can be measured. Conclusions drawn include the value of longitudinal studies over short-term cross-sectional research, incorporating approaches that reflect the diversity of the roles; the complexity of ascertaining role impact; and the value of undertaking a qualitative meta-analysis or meta-ethnography of existing studies.
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