The clinical development unit (CDU) has been recognized as an effective strategy to progress creativity and resourcefulness in nursing practice to improve patient outcomes. Clinical development units, through transformational leadership, promote staff development, the use of research evidence and dissemination of research findings through publication and presentations. The aim of this paper is to clearly articulate the processes (in particular, research and education initiatives) related to the development of staff that address issues in the everyday workplace and, accordingly, have been instrumental in the success of the creation of a CDU in cardiology. These units aim to achieve and promote excellence in an identifiable area of nursing using a systematic, transparent and defensible approach. A review of acute coronary syndrome informed the needs and direction of staff activities in the cardiology unit of a tertiary referral hospital. Through a collaborative staff approach, evidence was carefully examined to plan its appropriate adoption into the clinical area. Nursing practice and education resulting from this review was scheduled into staff career progression. These initiatives have been incorporated into staff development learning, enabling the integration of research into practice, which ultimately has a positive impact on patient outcomes.