This article examined the critical elements that have been identified in the development of advanced practice roles of nurses in four countries: Brazil, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Several socio-political and professional forces were examined for possible insights and ways in which they may have shaped the development and evolution of the roles of advanced practice nurses (APNs). These forces were: the socio-political environment; the health needs of society; the health workforce supply and demand; governmental policy and support; intra- and interprofessional collaboration; the development of nursing education; and documentation of effectiveness of the advanced role. The development of APN roles in the four social systems was reviewed to illustrate how socio-political and professional forces may have shaped nursing roles in each health care delivery system. Commonalities and distinguishing features across the four health and social systems were analysed to assess the predictive forces that may be identified as advanced roles in nursing have evolved in the global community.