Aims and objectives. An action research study was undertaken to explore the development of the nurse consultant role when caring for children and young people.
Background Five nurse consultants in different areas of specialist care in a tertiary paediatric hospital undertook the study when implementing the new role of nurse consultant into the hospital.
Methods. Action research meetings took place over a year. The nurse consultants then collated and analysed data using thematic analysis during the second year. A research fellow facilitated meetings, carried out participant observation, and coordinated the action research project.
Results. Data analysis revealed 22 subthemes grouped into four overarching themes: shaping the role; shaping child-centred care through consultancy; taking responsibility for practice; and leadership. These roles and their ease and complexity within the nurse consultant role are examined in further detail in this paper. Balancing the four key components in a newly developing role was initially complex and required support. Over time the nurse consultants developed the necessary skills to perform fully in all areas. A major challenge was developing the research role, a key function of the nurse consultant role. By the end of the study, all nurse consultants were actively embarking upon their own research either in preparation for or as part of Doctoral studies.
Conclusions and relevance to clinical practice. While there are many similarities with nurse consultants in adult practice, one major difference was the nurse consultant role in supporting families when caring for children and young people. This meant having a three-way communication style: with the family, the child/young person, and other healthcare professionals. This communication style was observed by the research fellow in participant observation of the nurse consultants undertaking clinical care and is described further in the analysis of the role.