• clinical development units;
  • clinical development unit evaluation;
  • threats to clinical development units';
  • survival

Clinical development units (nursing) are clinical units in which nurses systematically and strategically develop client-focused care and reflective and research-based practice. In addition, they are units typified by permissive and participatory governance and the recognition of the rights of all staff, irrespective of qualifications or experience, to continuing professional development. Clinical development units (nursing) (CDU(N)s), therefore, should be ‘learning’ units which provide rich opportunities to develop the transformational leadership skills of all nurses who work in them. As such, they provide important potential resources in terms of nursing's disciplinary and professional development. Western Sydney Area Health Service (WSAHS), in recognition of the important potential of CDU(N)s, sponsored the establishment of a network of nine CDU(N)s in 1997–1998. This will increase by a further five CDU(N)s in 1999–2000. Issues surrounding the establishment of this network, particularly in terms of unit preparation, the acquisition of adequate ‘expert’ and financial resources and leadership training will be discussed in this paper. In addition, threats to the survival of WSAHS's CDU(N)s will be identified and the strategies implemented by the Area in response to these threats will be outlined.