June 01, 2020

Clinical Nurse Specialists and Nurse Practitioners: Title Confusion and Lack of Role Clarity


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Title confusion and lack of role clarity pose barriers to the integration of advanced practice nursing roles (i.e., clinical nurse specialist [CNS] and nurse practitioner [NP]). Lack of awareness and understanding about NP and CNS roles among the healthcare team and the public contributes to ambiguous role expectations, confusion about NP and CNS scopes of practice and turf protection. This paper draws on the results of a scoping review of the literature and qualitative key informant interviews conducted for a decision support synthesis commissioned by the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation and the Office of Nursing Policy in Health Canada. The goal of this synthesis was to develop a better understanding of advanced practice nursing roles and the factors that influence their effective development and integration in the Canadian healthcare system. Specific recommendations from interview participants and the literature to enhance title and role clarity included the use of consistent titles for NP and CNS roles; the creation of a vision statement to articulate the role of CNSs and NPs across settings; the use of a systematic planning process to guide role development and implementation; the development of a communication strategy to educate healthcare professionals, the public and employers about the roles; attention to inter-professional team dynamics when introducing these new roles; and addressing inter-professionalism in all health professional education program curricula.


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