Aims. The aims of this project were to investigate awareness and foster understanding of the concept of the nurse practitioner and to facilitate and support the development of nurse practitioner roles within an acute hospital trust.
Background. A limited understanding of and minimal support for the development of the Nurse Practitioner (NP) role were identified within an acute hospital trust in the south of England. This was the impetus for pursuing the project outlined in this paper.
Theoretical perspective. The project used practice development theory synonymously with action research methodology comprising of four action research cycles.
Method. Data were collected in a variety of ways within the four overlapping cycles using formal and informal methods, which were analysed concurrently during the project. Techniques included questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, meetings, discussions and the project leader's field notes’ diary.
Outcomes. A better understanding of the concept and support for NP posts were enhanced across the trust. A Nurse Practitioner Development Group (NPDG) was established, which helped to facilitate the development of NP posts. An example of such a post was established within a NP-led gynaecology pre-operative assessment clinic, which was a pilot project and constituted Action Research cycle 3.
Conclusion. It is concluded that the development of NP roles, with the support of a NPDG, within an agreed strategy offers a robust process for NP development within an acute hospital setting.
Relevance to clinical practice. This project demonstrated how practice development and action research might be used together as a systematic process for developing and supporting professional roles that aim to improve the quality of patient care and the effectiveness of health care services.