An Integrative Review of Expert Nursing Practice


Dr. Shirley M. Morrison, 1634 Aspen Grove Drive, Houston, TX 77077. E-mail:


Purpose: To review relevant literature on expert practice in nursing to assess common characteristics across the breadth of nursing specialties and work settings.

Organizing Construct: An integrative literature search was conducted with inclusion criteria: (a) primary studies of how clinical staff nurses develop and demonstrate expert practice; (b) subjects from variety of specialties, employment settings, and countries of origin; and (c) studies of clinical staff nurses and not nurses in advanced practice roles.

Methods: Literature published between 1996 and 2009 was reviewed using MEDLINE and the Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) using the key words “nursing,”“expert,” and “practice.”

Findings: The characteristics of expert practice as explicated across a variety of specialty areas of practice and international settings included the following: knowing the patient, intuitive knowledge, reflective practice, risk taking, and skilled know-how. Involvement and engagement of the expert nurse with her or his patients underpin these characteristics. Themes were illustrated in a star model of nursing expert practice surrounded by support and grounded in emotional involvement.

Conclusions: Expert practice develops as nurses gain experience in a specialized practice setting, reflect on and learn from their experience, and develop meaningful relationships with their patients, families, and colleagues.

Clinical Relevance: The findings provide an understanding of expert nursing practice that can serve as a foundation for efforts to transfer knowledge from expert nurses to less expert nurses in all practice settings to reduce the expertise gap that is now widening.