The Experience and Effectiveness of Nurse Practitioners in Orthopaedic Settings: A Comprehensive Systematic Review

Anita Taylor, Lynda Staruchowicz
JBI Library of Systematic Reviews 2012, 10 (42 Suppl): 1-22

REVIEW QUESTION/OBJECTIVE: This review asks "What is the experience and effectiveness of nurse practitioners in orthopaedic settings"?The objective of the quantitative component of this review is to synthesise the best available evidence on effectiveness of orthopaedic nurse practitioner specific care on patient outcomes and process indicators.The objective of the qualitative component of this review is to synthesise the best available evidence on the experience of becoming or being an orthopaedic nurse practitioner in relation to role development, role implementation and (ongoing) role evaluation.The objective of the text and opinion component of this review is to synthesise the best available evidence of the contemporary discourse on the effectiveness and experience of nurse practitioners in orthopaedic settings.

BACKGROUND: Nurse practitioner roles have emerged in response to areas of unmet healthcare needs in a variety of settings. Nurse practitioners first evolved in the United States 40 years ago in response to a shortage of primary health care physicians. Nurse practitioners filled the void by providing access to primary health care services where otherwise there was none. Nurse practitioners comprise one branch of advanced nursing practice in the US along with Nurse Anaesthetists (NA), Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) and Nurse Midwives (NM). Canada soon followed America's lead by establishing the nurse practitioner role in 1967. Canada has two areas of advanced nursing practice, namely nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist; they are moving towards introducing nurse anaesthetists currently. The nurse practitioner role was introduced into the United Kingdom 20 years ago.There is commonality amongst the definition and characteristics of Nurse Practitioner (NP)/Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) role and practice internationally in terms of education, practice standards and regulation; operationally there is variability however. Australia's progress with nurse practitioners is very much informed by the experiences of the United States and United Kingdom and for the most part there exists a parallel between the international experience and the Australian experience of nurse practitioners.This review will focus on orthopaedic nurse practitioners in an international context. However the local context of the primary reviewer which informs this review is Australian. Australia has mirrored the trends around nurse practitioner practice found elsewhere. In the last 20 years (post implementation of the 1986 Australian nursing career structure), the debate around advanced nursing practice and nurse practitioners, in an Australian context, has developed. The inaugural 'legal & policy' nurse practitioner framework was developed in New South Wales (NSW) in 1998, with the first Australian nurse practitioner authorised to practise in NSW in 2000. It is posited that evaluation of emerging roles began to be seen in the research literature from 1990 onwards. In response to a need for creative workforce re-engineering and against a context of limited health resources, nurse practitioners in Australia over the last 20 years have emerged as an alternative model of health care delivery. For the last 10 years there has been a proliferation of influential 'reports' written by nurse researchers, generated to review the progress of Australia's nurse practitioners, commissioned by the health departments of respective state governments and other service planners to guide health workforce planning.In a national context the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Council (ANMC) as the peak national nursing body, defines a nurse practitioner as a Registered Nurse (RN) who is educated and authorised to practice autonomously and collaboratively in an advanced and extended clinical role. The ANMC Competency Standards for the Nurse Practitioner encompass three generic standards which are further defined by nine competencies. The competency standards provide a framework for practice and licensure of nurse practitioners in Australia. In order for the nurse practitioner to be endorsed by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to practise as a nurse practitioner they must have met the competency standards and be endorsed to practise by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) as a nurse practitioner under section 95 of the National Law. The nurse practitioner's endorsement in Australia is contextualised by their scope of practice, as is the case internationally.At September 2011, 450 endorsed nurse practitioners were nationally registered with AHPRA; 54 of these were endorsed to practise in South Australia. The first orthopaedic nurse practitioner was authorised in South Australia in 2005. To date there are eight endorsed orthopaedic nurse practitioners in Australia authorised to practise in a diverse range of orthopaedic settings that include acute care, community care, outpatient settings, rehabilitation, private practice and rural settings. The current scope of practice for Australian orthopaedic nurse practitioners spans the clinical range of trauma, arthroplasty, fragility fracture and ortho-geriatric care, surgical care: spinal/neurology and paediatric care. Orthopaedic nurse practitioners work within contemporary orthopaedic/musculoskeletal client disease models. These clinical models of care articulate the health care needs of populations living with musculoskeletal conditions, disorders and disease. Osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are 'highly prevalent long term [musculoskeletal] conditions known to predominantly affect the elderly and comprise the most common cause of disability in Australia'. Musculoskeletal trauma or injury as a result of an 'external force' such as vehicle accident, a fall, industrial or home environment accident or assault comprises a leading cause of hospital admission that requires orthopaedic management and care.There is some evidence to suggest that orthopaedic nursing is a 'specialty under threat' as orthopaedic-specific hospital wards are increasingly being absorbed into general surgical units; a trend observed in the United States in the mid 1990's in response to the American experience of 'downsizing' orthopaedic nursing services. Despite a limited evidence base, early citations with specific reference to orthopaedic nurses in the American context in particular started to populate the literature on or around this time. Several proponents of the specialty began to refer to a core nursing skill set that was 'highly orthopaedic' when describing 'specialist' orthopaedic nursing practice. More recently commentators point to differences in certain variables when patients are 'outlied' or managed in a non-orthopaedic ward environment by non-orthopaedic nurses.Despite 'in-principle' support for expanded scopes of practice for various health practitioner roles, the observation exists from within the specialty of orthopaedic nursing that progress in establishing the orthopaedic nurse practitioner role for this group of specialist clinicians has been slow and their journey has not been without challenge. The majority of orthopaedic nurse practitioners in Australia at least have emerged from extended practice roles similar to the generally well established experience of other nurse practitioners emerging from their own practice interest. The orthopaedic nurse practitioner is considered a 'pioneer' as they fill a 'gap' in clinical need and develop an orthopaedic nurse practitioner role. An emerging evidence base suggests that barriers such as a lack of role understanding, lack of 'team' support and a lack of resources at a system, organisational and practice level, constrain nurse practitioner practice and integration of the role into practice settings. Nurse practitioners function in an advanced clinical role. Some attempts have been made at quantifying the work of nurse practitioners. For example, Gardner et al in 2010 divided the work of nurse practitioners into three domains of practice: direct care, indirect care and service-related activities. Within these domains nurse practitioners perform a variety of tasks. Reporting on such activity by way of performance outcome measures is a variable practice amongst nurse practitioners however numbers seen/occasions of service, waiting times, effectiveness of interventions, referral patterns, patient/client satisfaction, clinical quality of care indicators are typical of the data maintained and reported by nurse practitioners to either justify their existence, embed their role service wide and/or contribute to workforce planning. Furthermore the orthopaedic nurse practitioner must effectively define and characterise the patient population to which they deliver care within the nurse practitioner's own scope of practice, ultimately to form an 'indicator' for the nurse practitioner role.The international literature pertaining to nurse practitioners or advanced practice nurses resonates with the many challenges faced by these nurses when it comes to role development and role implementation. Furthermore there is a body of evidence that validates the effectiveness of these roles. This becomes increasingly important in a context of building the health workforce of the future: a redefined workforce that must ensure adequate numbers of suitably qualified health workers who provide 'care the first time and every time'.A search of the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Library of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane Library, PubMed and CINAHL has shown there are no existing or systematic reviews underway on this topic. The JBI undertook a systematic review commissioned by the Department of Health South Australia on Advanced Practice in Nursing and Midwifery and recommended a framework for advanced practice in a report released in early 2008. The framework defined advanced practice, levels of advanced practice, scope of practice, credentialing, education, preparation and regulation of advanced practitioners. The search identified a published systematic review protocol in the JBI Library for a qualitative systematic review by Ramis looking broadly at the experience of advanced practice nurses working in acute settings. The JBI Library of Systematic Reviews also contains a systematic review examining the effectiveness of nurse practitioners in residential aged care. Whilst these publications provide valuable context to this review neither specifically examines the clinical practice of orthopaedic nurse practitioners.Similarly a search of the Cochrane Library revealed a review on the topic of substitution of doctors by nurses in primary care. The focus of this particular intervention review was neither specific to nurse practitioners nor the acute care setting, but the topic of 'doctor substitution' complements the practice of nurse practitioners and may be a consideration in this review. Doctor substitution or care provided by a nurse other than an orthopaedic nurse practitioner is a natural comparator when examining the role and practice of orthopaedic nurse practitioners.Given the breadth of this topic a comprehensive approach has been chosen to systematically review the evidence as it relates to orthopaedic nurse practitioner role and practice.

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