Consultant Nurses

The consultant nurse posts were first set out in the Making a Difference document (DH, 1999). More detailed guidance was issued in Health Service Circular 1999/217. Nurse consultants are important new leadership positions. Reaching the position allows nurses to remain in practice doing what they came into nursing to do. The consultant nurse role was developed as an alternative career path for experienced and senior nurses who otherwise might have entered management or have gone into higher education or have left the profession to retain contact with patients (NHS Executive, 1998). Consultant posts represent the pinnacle of the clinical career structure. Appointees are experienced practitioners with advanced education and qualifications in the specialty to which they are appointed. The role has four key functions: expert practice; professional leadership and consultancy; education, training and development; and practice and service development and research and evaluation (see Box Three).

Elcock (1996) suggests that consultant nurses are advanced practitioners, sharing the same roles, skills and characteristics. The role is concerned with adjusting boundaries; it is a catalyst for change and is a pioneer for strategic development, which is based on research. Therefore the consultant nurse and advanced practitioner share similar sub-roles and skills (Manley, 1997).

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