Aims and objectives. This paper aims to explore the critical elements of advanced nursing practice in relation to policy, education and role development in order to highlight an optimal structure for clinical practice.
Background. The evolution of advanced nursing practice has been influenced by changes in healthcare delivery, financial constraints and consumer demand. However, there has been wide divergence and variations in the emergence of the advanced nurse practitioner role. For the successful development and implementation of the role, policy, educational and regulatory standards are required.
Conclusion. The paper highlights the value of a policy to guide the development of advanced nursing practice. Educational curricula need to be flexible and visionary to prepare the advanced nurse practitioner for practice. The core concepts for the advanced nursing practice role are: autonomy in clinical practice, pioneering professional and clinical leadership, expert practitioner and researcher. To achieve these core concepts the advanced nurse practitioner must develop advanced theoretical and clinical skills, meet the needs of the client, family and the community.
Relevance to clinical practice. In a rapidly changing people-centred healthcare environment the advanced nurse practitioner can make an important contribution to healthcare delivery. The challenges ahead are many, as the advanced nurse practitioner requires policy and appropriate educational preparation to practice at advanced level. This will enable the advanced practitioner articulate the role, to provide expert client care and to quantify their contribution to health care in outcomes research.