• care continuum;
  • concept development;
  • literature review;
  • nursing

Aims.  The aim of this paper is to communicate attributes, antecedents, and consequences identified within the ‘continuum of care’ using the process of concept development.

Background.  The term ‘continuum of care’ is embedded in health care experience and is consistently taken for granted in health care literature without adequate analysis or definition.

Methods.  Using EndNote and MS Excel software, a sample of 153 articles from 638 nursing and allied health journal articles retrieved by electronic search were reviewed; keywords descriptive of the concept were manually extracted. An electronic library was created and searched for keyword frequencies and words were ranked and sorted into unifying categories.

Findings.  Four major unifying categories of attributes: people, environment, events and time, were identified, described and encorporated into a definition of the concept. An exemplar case was identified.

Conclusions.  The continuum of care was identified as a concept with specific, describable attributes evidenced in an exemplar case.