• advanced nursing practice;
  • ageing workforce;
  • nurse shortage;
  • ophthalmic nursing;
  • skill-mix

Aims and objectives.  The aims of the study were to investigate the advanced nursing practice and the skill-mix of nurses working in ophthalmology.

Background.  The expansion of new nursing roles in the United Kingdom in the past decade is set against the background of a nursing shortage. The plan to modernize the National Health Service and improve the efficiency and delivery of healthcare services as well as to reduce junior doctors’ hours contributes towards a profusion of new and more specialized and advanced nursing roles in various areas of nursing including ophthalmology.

Design.  A self-reporting quantitative questionnaire was employed. The study used comparative and descriptive statistical tests.

Method.  The questionnaires were distributed to all ophthalmic hospitals and units in the United Kingdom. Hospital and unit managers were responsible for completing the questionnaires.

Results.  Out of a total 181 questionnaires 117 were returned. There is a downward trend in the total number of nurses working in ophthalmology. The results demonstrate more nurses working at an advanced level. However, there is a general confusion regarding role interpretation at the advanced level of practice, evident through the wide range of job titles being used. There was inconsistency in the qualifications expected of these nurses.

Conclusion.  Whilst there are more nurses working at an advanced level this is set against an ageing workforce and an overall decline in the number of nurses in ophthalmology. There is inconsistency in job titles, grades, roles and qualifications for nurses who work at an advanced or higher level of practice. The Agenda for Change with its new structure for grading jobs in the United Kingdom may offer protection and consistency in job titles, pay and qualifications for National Health Service nurse specialists. The Nursing and Midwifery Council needs to provide clear guidelines to the practitioners on educational and professional requirements, to protect patients and nurses.

Relevance to clinical practice.  The findings indicate that there is a need for better regulations for nurses working at advanced nursing practice.