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Nurse practitioner education: a research-based curriculum structure


  • Glenn Gardner PhD RN,

  • Anne Gardner MPH PhD RN,

  • Margaret Proctor MScN RN

Glenn Gardner,
Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Centre for Clinical Nursing, Brisbane, Queensland 4029, Australia.


Background.  The process and content of nurse practitioner educational preparation has received scant research attention, despite increasing interest in and investigations into nurse practitioner services in Australia and internationally.

Aims.  The aim of this paper is to report a study investigating the educational process and content required for nurse practitioner preparation.

Methods.  A trial of practice was conducted with four nurse practitioner candidates over a 12-month period. The candidates practised in different specialities, giving rise to four models of the nurse practitioner role. The trial had multiple aims related to the role and scope of practice of the nurse practitioner. An action learning model was used, in which participating nurse practitioner candidates ‘worked-into-the-role’ of extended practice and learned from experience through clinical mentoring, reflection and action. Data collection methods centred on transcripts from group work activities related to a collaborative engagement with and reflections on clinical practice. This resulted in the collaborative production of data to inform a research-based nurse practitioner curriculum structure.

Findings.  The findings relate to the content and learning process required for nurse practitioner education and are described in terms of three broad areas of study: clinical practice, clinical sciences and nursing studies.

Conclusions.  A curriculum structure that describes content and process for nurse practitioner education was developed from the findings. A further outcome of this trial was confirmation of importance of the clinical environment for nurse practitioner education. Inherent in this aspect of clinical learning is the role of a committed clinical mentor who can facilitate purposeful learning.