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Generic and specialist nursing roles in the community: an investigation of professional and lay views

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In the UK, a number of policy documents have sought to outline and clarify the role of the community nurse in the past 10 years. Furthermore, the increasing specialisation of community nursing has been the topic of much debate in the UK and Ireland. The present study aimed to investigate the perceptions of community nurses, general practitioners (GPs), members of the public, and senior strategists and policy-makers in relation to specialist and generalist nursing roles within community nursing in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Focus groups were undertaken with community nurses (n = 38), GPs (n = 14) and public representatives (n = 8). This was followed by a two-stage Delphi investigation using self-report questionnaires with the same samples. In addition, data were collected from 34 senior policy-makers using a semi-structured interview schedule. The results uncovered a mix of views. While there was much negativity about specialisation, the participants felt that the move away from generalism was unavoidable. There was concern that specialisation, whilst welcome in some areas, would lead to role conflict, role overlap and role confusion. Findings from this study have the potential to inform the specialisation–generalism debate within and outside the UK and Ireland. Recommendations are suggested for future policy and practice.
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Keywords: community nursing; conflict; nurse specialist; primary care; roles

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Nursing, University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, UK, 2: School of Health Sciences, University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, UK and 3: Western Health and Social Services Board, Londonderry

Publication date: November 1, 2003

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