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Exploring nursing expertise: nurses talk nursing

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HARDY S, GARBETT R, TITCHEN A and MANLEY K. Nursing Inquiry 2002; 9: 196–202

Exploring nursing expertise: nurses talk nursing

It has become increasingly important for practitioners to articulate their expertise in modern healthcare settings that demand high levels of accountability and evidence-based practice. The material presented within this article has been interpreted drawing from discourse analysis 1 to help explore the discourses that shape and influence understandings of nursing practice. What we present are extracts from four of the 35 participant nurses who applied to take part in the Royal College of Nursing Institute's Expertise in Practice (pilot) Project (EPP). The material presented is used to provide a starting point for exploring how nurses talk about and construct expertise in nursing practice. The four nurse participants’ clinical practice areas cover palliative care, mental health, intensive care and fertility care. The material reveals high levels of intensity in the nurse–patient relationship, ‘maverick’ nursing practices and ongoing reflexivity. All of these aspects appear to capitalize on expertise as a ‘catalyst’ that alters treatment pathways and maximizes patient-centred outcomes. Exploring a discourse of nursing expertise exposes the tacit situated nature of professional practice that is heterogeneous and most difficult to articulate and explain. It is proposed that expertise tends to be understood from traditional and dominant discourses of medicine, management and technology. Explaining expertise in practice exposes non-conventional practice that in itself can be isolating and challenging to the status quo of contemporary health-care.

Keywords: clinical nursing practice; discourse analysis; expertise

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: The Expertise in Practice (pilot) Project, The RCN Institute, London, UK

Publication date: September 1, 2002


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