Australian research investigating the role of nurse practitioners: A view from implementation science
The catalyst for the paper was a rapid review of the literature which identified Australian research on nurse practitioners. This paper reports on those studies investigating individual nurse practitioner roles, framed in terms of the implementation science literature and three stages of implementation: exploration and adoption of the role, initial implementation of the role, and full operation of the role.Database searching of the peer-reviewed literature was supplemented with searching relevant web sites. Most studies focused on certain aspects of the nurse practitioner role rather than undertaking a comprehensive evaluation. There was no consistency in the way the roles were described, making it difficult to compare what may be similar roles in different studies. The research generally treats the nurse practitioner role as the independent variable, rather than the care provided by the nurse practitioner. The concept of implementation fidelity was absent from all studies, except for one which addressed the issue indirectly. Many studies included little contextual information, making it difficult to judge the role of context in influencing both implementation and patient outcomes and establish plausible links between the activities of the nurse practitioners and patient outcomes.Based on the findings, a checklist is recommended for use in future studies which would enhance the ability to make judgements about implementing nurse practitioner models of care; facilitate comparison of similar roles and increase the capacity to make informed decisions about the prospects for wider implementation of nurse practitioner roles or models of care.