From competence to capability: a study of nurse practitioners in clinical practice

Gardner, Anne, Hase, Stewart, Gardner, Glenn E., Carryer, Jenny, & Dunn, Sandra (2008) From competence to capability: a study of nurse practitioners in clinical practice. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 17(2), pp. 250-258.

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Aims and Objectives

This research aimed to further understand the level and scope of practice of the nurse practitioner in Australia and New Zealand using a capability framework.


The original study, from which the present paper was developed, sought to identify competency standards for the extended role of the nurse practitioner in Australia and New Zealand. In doing so the researchers became aware that while competencies described many of the characteristics of the nurse practitioner they did manage to tell the whole story. In a search of the literature the concept of capability appeared to provide a potentially useful construct to describe the attributes of the nurse practitioner that went beyond competence.

Design A secondary analysis of data obtained from interviews with nurse practitioners working in Australia and New Zealand was undertaken. This data had previously been obtained in a study to identify nurse practitioner competencies. The analysis described in this paper investigated whether or not the components of capability would adequately explain the characteristics of the nurse practitioner.

Methods Fifteen nurse practitioners were interviewed from Australia and New Zealand. A secondary (deductive) analysis of interview data using capability as a theoretical framework was conducted.

Results The analysis showed that capability and its dimensions is a useful model for describing the advanced level attributes of nurse practitioners. Thus, nurse practitioners described elements of their practice that involved: using their competences in novel and complex situations as well as the familiar; being creative and innovative; knowing how to learn; having a high level of self-efficacy; and working well in teams. Conclusions This study suggests that both competence and capability need to be considered in understanding the complex role of the nurse practitioner. Relevance to clinical practice The dimensions of capability need to be considered in the education and evaluation of nurse practitioners.

Impact and interest:

45 citations in Scopus
35 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 5993
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: IHBI
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2006.01880.x
ISSN: 0962-1067
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > NURSING (111000)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2008 Blackwell Publishing
Copyright Statement: The definitive version is available at
Deposited On: 16 Jan 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 13:38

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