Recognising the differences in the nurse consultant role across context: a study protocol

Michelle Giles, Vicki Parker, R. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The advanced practice role of the Nurse Consultant is unique in its capacity to provide clinical leadership across a range of contexts. However, the Nurse Consultant role has been plagued with confusion due to lack of clarity over function and appropriateness for purpose within health organisations across contexts. Changing health service delivery models are driving the emergence of new nursing roles, further clouding the waters related to role positioning and purpose. There is an urgent need for evidence of impact and demonstration of how Nurse Consultants contribute to health care outcomes. This study aims to gain a clearer understanding of the Nurse Consultant role and its impact in metropolitan and rural New South Wales (NSW) Australia.
Design: The proposed study employs a sequential mixed method design, underpinned by Realistic Evaluation, to explore how Nurse Consultants contribute to organisational outcomes. The ‘context – mechanism – outcome’ approach of realistic evaluation provides a sound framework to examine the complex, diverse and multifaceted nature of the Nurse Consultant’s role.
Method: Participants will be stakeholders, recruited across a large Local Health District in NSW, comprising rural and metropolitan services. A modified and previously validated survey will be used providing information related to role characteristics, patterns and differences across health context. Focus groups with Nurse Consultant’s explore issues highlighted in the survey data. Focus groups with other clinicians, policy makers and managers will help to achieve understanding of how the role is viewed and enacted across a range of groups and contexts.
Discussion: Lack of role clarity is highlighted extensively in international and Australian studies examining the role of the Nurse Consultant. Previous studies failed to adequately examine the role in the context of integrated and complex health services or to examine the role in detail. Such examination is critical in order to understand the significance of the role and to ascertain how Nurse Consultants can be most effective as members of the health care team. This is the first Australian study to include extensive stakeholder perspectives in order to understand the relational and integrated nature and impact of the role across metropolitan and rural context.
Original languageEnglish
Article number30
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Nursing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2014 Giles et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Nurse consultant
  • Nursing
  • Workforce
  • Role clarity
  • Advanced practice nurse


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