• clinical competence;
  • clinical role;
  • concept formation;
  • nurse's role;
  • nurse–patient relations

Aims and objectives

To identify the attributes of the concept ‘clinical role of the nurse’ in the literature.


The concept of nurses' clinical role is frequently mentioned in literature, but hardly explored in conceptual terms. This has implications for nursing practice and education.


Qualitative and descriptive study, which corresponds to the first phase in the concept development of the qualitative concept analysis method – identification of concept attributes.


The critical literature analysis method was used to identify the antecedents, defining attributes and consequences of the nurse's clinical role. A systematic literature search was undertaken in International Literature in Health Sciences, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature and Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences.


The clinical role was shown to be a process of complex interaction between nurse and patient, with critical thinking, informed experience and a sense of clinical autonomy as its antecedents. Consequences of nurses' clinical role include transformations in the organisation and process of nursing practice. A theoretical proposal was elaborated for the concept of the clinical role of the nurse, identifying the defining attributes, antecedents and consequences.


The clinical role of the nurse concept that was developed represents innovative evidence on the theme. Nevertheless, a deeper understanding of nurses' clinical role is needed, as well as refinement of its conceptual components. This study should be integrated into a field research project, designed to illuminate how nurses manifest and articulate the concept in clinical practice.

Relevance to clinical practice

Knowledge of clinical role attributes, associated with nursing competencies, can contribute to reflection on the dimensions involved in nursing practice and inform not only teaching and professional practice, but also health policies.