Introducing Northern Ireland's Professional Framework for Emergency Care Nursing

A recently launched framework in Northern Ireland is furthering the professional development of the emergency care nursing workforce

A recently launched framework in Northern Ireland is furthering the professional development of the emergency care nursing workforce

The Professional Framework for Emergency Care Nursing was officially launched at the Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council (NIPEC) annual conference in March. It was born from chief nursing officer Charlotte McArdle asking NIPEC to collaborate with the local RCN emergency care network to further the professional development of the emergency nursing workforce in Northern Ireland.

A web-based framework supports nurses looking to develop their careers. Picture: iStock

The framework is a web-based resource linked to RCN Emergency Care Association (ECA) competencies and aims to provide information to support professional and career development. It is also a useful resource for those who are interested in a career in emergency care, or want to progress in the specialty.

Learning resource

The framework is hosted as a microsite on NIPEC’s Career Pathway for Nurses and Midwives website, launched in 2015. This pathway is a resource for anyone who wants to learn more about becoming a nurse or midwife, and for nurses or midwives who want to further their careers.

The pathways are presented under four domains: clinical, management and leadership, education, and research. 

Information range

The four domains of the emergency care framework reflect those of the career pathway and have been specifically adapted and modified for emergency care nursing. Whichever path an emergency nurse is interested in pursuing, the framework provides a range of information linked to each domain including:

  • Job roles.
  • Podcasts by nurses in emergency departments (EDs) talking about their roles.
  • Educational opportunities and programmes to support professional development linked to each of the job roles.
  • A range of helpful resources.
  • Real-life stories from emergency nurses who work in roles linked to the domains.

ECA competencies form the foundations of the Professional Framework for Emergency Care Nursing and set out the core skills necessary for every emergency nurse. A link on the main page of the framework takes the reader to information about the ECA and allows access to the competencies. It is anticipated these will support emergency nurses in Northern Ireland to develop personally and professionally, and support standardisation of nursing clinical expertise across EDs.

Project group

To develop the framework, NIPEC convened a project group that included representatives from all the relevant stakeholder organisations and was chaired by the RCN emergency care network. The project lead was a senior professional officer from NIPEC supported by two professional officers, who had significant expertise and experience in emergency care nursing.

Extensive engagement and communication were included as part of the project plan to ensure that front-line staff were aware of the framework and to capture their views about how it should be developed. NIPEC coordinated and engaged with emergency care nurses working across all emergency care settings, face to face and using social media, to capture their views.

Anticipated uses of the framework
  • To help aspiring emergency nurses understand and find out more about the role of an emergency nurse and the various career opportunities available.
  • As a resource for emergency nurses when preparing and planning for annual reviews.
  • The ECA competencies can be used individually or by ED managers to guide induction and the development of staff.
  • To assist emergency nurses in identifying relevant continuing professional development to demonstrate that they remain fit to practise and meet the requirements of revalidation.
  • To help emergency nurses identify education programmes that can assist in their preparation for new roles.
  • Nurse managers may find the framework useful in supporting emergency nurses to develop their role, especially those who are new in post.
  • The framework could be useful to ED nurse managers when undertaking workforce planning and could assist in identifying the unique contribution the various nursing roles make to patient care.
  • To help emergency nurses source additional information and contacts though the NIPEC project lead.
  • Other members of the multidisciplinary team can use the framework, particularly the links to education programmes and helpful resources.



The framework showcases the range and types of roles and positions emergency nurses hold. The real-life stories provide an insight into how the featured nurses navigated their careers to achieve their positions, and the inclusion of a range of education programmes and resources is designed to support budding emergency nurses in their careers. Although developed specifically to support emergency nurses in Northern Ireland, because the framework is web-based it is accessible elsewhere.

The framework was accurate and correct at the point of completion, but will require updating as education programmes, resources and emergency nursing roles develop and evolve. NIPEC has a governance process in place to ensure modifications are made as new and changing information comes to light, informed by the expertise of the RCN emergency care network.


In summary, the Professional Framework for Emergency Care Nursing presents roles and career opportunities in clinical, education, research and management areas. It also acts as a resource for those who are considering a career in emergency care nursing. But how significant is it in terms of improving care and advancing the nursing profession?

There has also been a lot of interest from colleagues in other fields of practice keen to develop a framework for their area.

Developing the framework has been a real achievement by emergency nurses in Northern Ireland. It came about as a result of dedication, perseverance and a partnership approach, and it is clear that emergency care nurses have a real sense of ownership of the framework and a great sense of pride in it.

The aim was to support and provide a resource for emergency care nurses as they navigate their careers. It is hoped the framework’s development will strengthen the profession and give emergency care nurses a sense of collective identity.

In the longer term, it should help to reduce variations and ensure standardisation of the competencies of nurses working in EDs across Northern Ireland, and should be a vehicle to support the sharing of good practice.

Real-life stories

 Helen McNeilly, emergency nurse practitioner

'I was always keen on the clinical aspects of nursing and this role enabled me to expand my clinical knowledge and use it to enable me to see, treat and discharge patients autonomously. Every day is a learning curve and after seven years in the post I continue to encounter new things on a regular basis. You can only be taught so much at university, but it’s not until you start to practise that you learn all the skills required for the post. My communications skills also had to improve to get the relevant information I require as part of my history-taking.'

 Jill Fleck, clinical educator

'As a clinical educator in emergency care settings, I support pre and post-registration nursing students in their practice placements, enhancing opportunities so they meet their learning objectives.

'Key skills that can be gained in this role include programme development, management, leadership, and negotiation skills. My advice for others interested in this work is to make use of the opportunities given for your own personal development and don’t wait for someone to send you on a course. Acknowledge that getting where you want to be involves hard work and effort, and your own time.'

About the authors


Frances Cannon is senior professional officer, NIPEC, and project lead for the Professional Framework for Emergency Care Nursing.


Linsey Sheerin is chair of the Professional Framework for Emergency Care Nursing steering group and RCN emergency care network lead.


Roisin Devlin is project officer for the Professional Framework for Emergency Care Nursing and an ECA steering group member.

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