Advanced practice nurse roles in Europe: Implementation challenges, progress and lessons learnt

John Unsworth*, Karen Greene, Parveen Ali, Gro Lillebø, Doina Carmen Mazilu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
82 Downloads (Pure)



Advanced practice nursing (APN) roles offer improved access to care and increased quality and more timely care. Despite the advantages of APN roles, there is a disparity between European countries when it comes to implementing APN roles.


To explore the implementation of APN roles in a range of European countries and to explore what factors facilitate or hinder the implementation of these roles.


A case study evaluation of the process of implementing APN roles. The sample included four countries where APN roles were well developed (Ireland, Spain, Norway and the United Kingdom) and four where APN roles were implemented (Estonia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Romania). Interviews were conducted with key informants (n = 28) from government departments, regulatory bodies, nursing associations and universities. The consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research (CPREQ) has been used throughout.


The small number of countries when considering the size of the region and key informants representing the view of only three to four people in each country.


Four themes were identified, including the rationale for the development of the roles, influence, the evolutionary nature of role development and evidence. The data also revealed a mismatch between the perceptions of how the roles develop among the different countries in the early stages of implementation.


Successful role implementation is dependent upon a tripartite approach between managers, practitioners and educators. An evolutionary approach to role development was used. Regulation and policy come later on in the process of implementation.

Implications for nursing policy

APN policy should be based on patient needs rather than on the workforce or professional imperatives. The process of implementation can take 15–20 years in total. Recognising the importance of the relationships between service managers and educators is key to the early development of these roles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299–308
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Nursing Review
Issue number2
Early online date12 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2024


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