Nurse-led intermediate care: an opportunity to develop enhanced roles for nurses?
Background. Nurse-led intermediate care units are being set up across the UK primarily as potential solutions to hospital bed crises.
Aims. This paper draws on data collected as part of a comprehensive evaluation of one 10-bedded nurse-led unit (NLU) located in the South of England. It explores the potential for enhanced nursing roles provided by such units by focusing on the views of NLU nursing staff and other professional groups within the Hospital Trust where the unit is located.
Methods. A total of 38 in-depth audio-taped qualitative interviews were conducted with NLU nursing staff and with a range of other professional groups (managers, acute ward nurses and doctors).
Findings. These data indicated that models of nurse-led postacute care do provide opportunities for nurses to develop enhanced nursing roles in which care associated with concepts of therapeutic nursing can be provided. However, even though the nurses derived satisfaction from their work on the NLU this model of care was seen by junior and middle grade nurses and other professional groups as being of low status. In contrast to senior nurses’ views, they did not equate work on the NLU with the continuing professionalization of nursing. Senior nurses viewed the route to developing nursing on the NLU as involving nurses as doctor substitutes (extended roles) rather than as working in separate but complementary therapeutic domains (enhanced roles).
Conclusions. NLUs provide opportunities for nurses to develop enhanced roles in which they can work autonomously in providing elements of therapeutic nursing aimed at improving patient outcomes at discharge. However, education, training and leadership will be needed to ensure that such opportunities are well understood and are optimized to the benefit of nurses and their patients.