Research Output

Nurse consultants: their characteristics and achievements

  Aim. This paper reports one aspect of a larger study of nursing research strategies in one English region, focusing particularly on nurse consultants’ characteristics and achievements in the role.

Background. Nurse consultant posts have only been established in the United Kingdom since 1999 and, although much comment has appeared in the professional literature, there is very little research-based evidence of how the roles are developing. The role is intended to integrate four domains: expert practice; professional leadership and consultancy; education, training and development; and practice and service development.

Design. A cross-sectional design, using a convenience sample, was adopted.

Methods. Ten nurse consultants working in a variety of settings and specialties participated in in-depth, tape-recorded interviews. The data were analysed using the Framework approach.

Results. Four themes were identified from the data: characteristics of the postholder, role achievement, support systems and National Health Service influences. The first two themes are discussed in this paper and the data show that the nurse consultants varied in terms of their academic background and previous experience. Not all had the recommended minimum of Master's degree level preparation and some had limited research experience. These background characteristics seemed to influence the degree to which they were able to achieve the four domains of the role, with those with lower qualifications and from a mental health background appearing to struggle most.

Conclusions. New appointments to these roles should only be made when candidates possess the recommended levels of educational preparation and professional experience of change management. It is also important that there is clarity about the scope of the role, which should not include management responsibilities. On-going research is essential to evaluate how the roles develop for postholders, the extent to which they fulfil policymakers’ expectations and what difference they make to patient care from a patient perspective.

Relevance to clinical practice. The findings show that holders of such posts need to have appropriate previous knowledge, skills and personal characteristics, as these seem to influence their ability to integrate the four domains of the role and thus achieve the requirements of the post.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    01 August 2005

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    Blackwell Synergy

  • DOI:


  • ISSN:


  • Library of Congress:

    RT Nursing

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    610 Medicine & health


Woodward, V. A., Webb, C. & Prowse, M. (2005). Nurse consultants: their characteristics and achievements. Journal of clinical nursing. 14, 845-854. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2005.01165.x. ISSN 1365-2702


Nursing research strategies; Nurse consultants; Expert practice; Professional leadership

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