Evaluating the Scope of Nursing Practice: An Australian Perspective

Thursday, 15 July 2010: 10:50 AM

Leonie Mosel Williams, PhD, MEd, BN(Ed), DipAppSci
School of Health and Sport Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Queensland, Australia
Margaret Barnes, PhD, RN
School of Health & sport Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Queensland, Australia
Magdelene Hingst, BHMg, CertGerC, RN
Quality Management, Southern Cross Care, Upper MtGravatt, Queensland 4122, Australia

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to outline the utility of evaluation methodology as an approach to evaluate nursing policy.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to compare the challenges faced by international nurse leaders with their own when regulatory nursing policies are introduced.

Purpose: In 1995 the Queensland Nursing Council introduced the Scope of Nursing Practice Framework to guide nurses in delegation, assessment of competence and supervision. Two evaluations of the Framework implementation have been conducted but neither explored the Framework’s use by nurses in the workplace. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the implementation of the Framework in the daily practice of a sample of the state’s 57,000 nurses and midwives across various contexts of practice.

Methods: Evaluation methodology was used because of the ascending approach to evaluating policy rather than the ‘top-down’ approach. As such, nurses (N = 88) and midwives (N = 10) were recruited from metropolitan, regional and rural facilities working in government and privately owned hospitals, community and aged care centres. Using focus groups, participants’ views on the utility of the Framework were explored. Triangulation was achieved through observation studies of nurses and midwives (N = 6) across contexts and document analysis from participant organisations.

Transcripts of focus group data were analysed using HyperRESEARCH 2.8 to identify data-rich themes. Observation data was subjected to theoretical analysis and documents were coded and analysed using content analysis and quasi-statistical methods to identify trends.

Results: The data produced 12 significant outcomes including the overt and covert pressure on nurses to work outside of their scope of practice, usually from upper to middle management in most environments. At some sites, institutional policies limited the scope of practice of the registered nurse while expanding the scope of the enrolled (licensed practical) nurse and unlicensed carer resulting in worker and workplace tension.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that the evaluation method was appropriate for this study and the recommendations highlight the need for further education at all levels of nursing to strengthen the overall understanding of the principles of the Framework.