Journal of Professional Nursing

Advancing Nursing Practice Through Postgraduate Education (Part One)

Deborah Spence, RGON, RM, PhD, Principal Lecturer, Division of Health Care Practice, Auckland University of Technology

Reference:  Spence, D. G. (2004). Advancing nursing practice through postgraduate education (part one). Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 20(2), 46-55. 


Recognition given to advanced nursing practice and programmes supporting its development is undergoing significant change in New Zealand. A considerable body of literature addressing this phenomenon has emanated from the USA, UK, Canada and Australia. In New Zealand the clinically focused postgraduate papers and programmes, available through universities and polytechnics, are evaluated from an educational perspective but little evaluation of the implications for practice has been undertaken. This paper is Part One of a report on a study that sought to illuminate the impact of clinically focused postgraduate education on advancing nursing practice. Hermeneutic methodology provided a framework for analysing both the perspectives of nurses who had undergone such education and those who had directly employed and worked alongside these nurses. Emerging themes are described here. In a second article the findings will be discussed in relation to literature. Constraining factors will be identified and strategies designed to maximise the benefits of education for advancing nursing practice will be recommended.  

Clinical masters, advancing practice, hermeneutic evaluation   

The decision by the Nursing Council of New Zealand (2001) to introduce a register for Nurse Practitioners prompted increased emphasis in nursing education on the development of practice-oriented or clinical Masters programmes. Postgraduate education had tended to be formally academic and graduates of previous programmes have often moved into positions in education, management, research and/or consultancy. Since the late 1990s opportunities to focus on the clinical advancement of practice have become increasingly available in New Zealand schools of nursing. These clinically focused postgraduate papers and programmes are evaluated from an educational perspective, but to date there has been little exploration of the implications for practice. Motivated by a need to make visible the impact of postgraduate education on advancing nursing practice, I believe that qualitative research contributes knowledge of the complex and dynamic interface between nursing education and nursing practice. More importantly, in the longer term, I also believe that such research will inform the development of tools better able to comprehensively evaluate the effectiveness of the nursing contribution to health outcomes. This paper will only report the background, methodology/ method and study findings. Discussion will be taken up in a second paper. 

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