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Background: There is a vast amount of international literature which, although agreeing on the need for advanced practice nurse roles, simultaneously debates and discusses the difficulties with nomenclature, definition and subsequent implementation of such roles. Due to this ambiguity it is difficult to equally compare evidence in this field across different countries. A context-specific systematic review on the qualitative evidence of the experience of being an advanced practice nurse in Australia has not been undertaken previously, however it is imperative for nursing managers and leaders to understand the complexities of advanced nursing roles in order to effectively utilise and retain these experienced and valuable nurses. With the creation of a national nursing regulating authority in 2010, it is timely to explore in-depth the experience of being an advanced practice nurse from a national perspective. Objective: To identify the experience of being an advanced practice nurse working in Australian acute care settings. Inclusion criteria: Types of participants Registered nurses working in advanced practice roles in acute care settings throughout Australia. Phenomena of interest The experience of being an advanced practice registered nurse working in an Australian acute care setting, as reported by the nurses themselves. Types of studies Interpretive qualitative studies including designs such as phenomenology, grounded theory and ethnography. Search strategy: A three step search strategy was used to identify published and unpublished studies. The search process was conducted from August to October 2011 and considered published and unpublished studies from 1990 to October 2011. Methodological quality: Studies were appraised for methodological quality by two independent reviewers using the Joanna Briggs Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument. Data extraction: Data was extracted from the papers included in the review using the standardised Joanna Briggs Institute Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument data extraction tool. Data synthesis: Research findings were pooled using the Joanna Briggs Institute Qualitative Data and Review Instrument. Results: Three published studies and one unpublished dissertation were included in the review. From these four studies, 216 findings were extracted, forming 18 categories which were then analysed to create six synthesised findings. Six meta-syntheses under the headings of expert knowledge, confidence, education, relationships, negative experiences and patient centred experience were formed from the findings. Conclusions: The synthesised findings confirm that the experience of advanced practice nurses in Australian acute care settings is complex and greatly influenced personally and professionally by the organisation as well as the unpredictable nature of working with people. Implications for practice: A deeper understanding of the essence of being an advanced practice nurse may be of benefit for recruitment and retention planning. Health care organisations must also be aware of the impact they have on the nurse's experience if they are to commit to retention of nurses and to patient safety. Implications for research: If the topic of advanced practice is to remain current in the Australian nursing profession then ongoing research must be conducted to identify if the title is being used more frequently within the nursing research. Nurses must be supported in publishing quality research if they are to improve articulation of their experiences.

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Journal Article

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