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The concept‘expert’ has become common in the nursing literature since Benner's (1984) work more than a decade ago Whilst the term has a common meaning, it is apparent that when used in nursing it refers to a multitude of attributes and lacks clear definition This paper uses the strategy for concept analysis developed by Walker & Avant (1988) to seek an operational definition for the concept of ‘expert’, and suggests the denning attributes of possession of a specialized body of knowledge and skill, extensive experience in a field of practice, highly developed levels of pattern recognition, and acknowledgement by others These are discussed in relation to nursing practice and the circumstances under which the concept is used Development of cases is carried out to exemplify the concept, and the antecedents and consequences of the attributes are discussed, suggesting that the concept lacks clarity, both in conceptualization, and in use A first definition of the concept is posed to open debate concerning the relevance of the term for the future The conclusions reached suggest that whilst an operational definition is unlikely to be found, because of the problems of definition and measurement, it is possible, through various strategies, to recognize expert practice and use it to further develop nursing Furthermore, it is likely to become increasingly important to recognize and reward expert practitioners, given the political and economic constraints in health care today