Advanced nursing practitioners in primary care settings: an exploration of the developing roles


  • Ros Carnwell BA, MA, PhD, RGN, RHV, CPT, Cert Ed,

    1. Professor of Health and Community Research, Centre for Health and Community Research, North East Wales Instiute, Mold Rd, Wrexham, LL11 2AW
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  • William M. Daly BSc, PhD, RGN, RCNT, Cert Ed

    1. Principal Lecturer, Secondary Care Nursing Research, School of Health, University of Wolverhampton, West Midlands, UK
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Ros Carnwell, Professor of Health and Community Research, Centre for Health and Community Research, North East Wales Institute, Mold Rd, Wrexham, LL11 2AW, UK (tel.: +44 (0) 1978 293 131; e-mail:


• Recent health care policies have resulted in patients having access to an integrated system of care that is quick and reliable. In concert with these changes, opportunities for professional development in nursing have increased, together with a reduction in the numbers of doctors. Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ANPs) have, therefore, developed to meet the complex demands of health care systems.

• This paper reports on a study that aimed to explore the current role of ANPs in primary care in the West Midlands region of the UK and how ANPs within three different nursing disciplines in primary care developed their roles over time.

• The study utilized a qualitative exploratory design incorporating a longitudinal element. Twenty-one ANPs were interviewed during phase one, 15 of whom were interviewed again during phase two, approximately 15 months later. Their managers (where appropriate) were also interviewed during phase one.

• The findings reveal that the nature and focus of practice varies between disciplines. At the extreme practice end of the practice-strategic continuum, Practice Nurse ANPs’ expertise lies in their advanced practical assessment and diagnosis of individual patients, with little opportunity for strategic development. Health Visitor and District Nurse ANPs operate at the strategic end of the practice-strategic continuum, but operate differently at this level. Health Visitors, being community and public health focused are involved in multi-agency work, practice development and policy formulation. District Nurses work with individual patients/carers and the nursing team, thus their involvement in strategic developments tends to focus at the patient care level, such as protocol and practice developments, although their work also involves work in all three other domains. Overall, the findings reveal a unique role for all three with a potential career pathway for ANPs to become Nurse Consultants in the future.