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New guidelines aim to increase understanding of advanced practice nursing

International Council of Nurses says COVID-19 pandemic means advanced roles are vital
Two nurses training as Advanced Nurse Practitioners

International Council of Nurses says COVID-19 pandemic means advanced roles are vital

Advanced practice nursing (APN) can help countries to develop stronger healthcare systems, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has said.

The council has published guidelines on APN that aim to improve understanding of this specialism among governments, policymakers, educators, the nursing and healthcare professions, and the public.

Ability to provide complex care

The ICN describes nurses working at advanced practice level as being educated to a minimum of masters degree level, and able to manage full episodes of care and complex healthcare problems.

Differences and similarities between the advanced practice roles of clinical nurse specialist and nurse practitioner are set out in the guidelines, including a stipulation that both should be

International Council of Nurses says COVID-19 pandemic means advanced roles are vital


Advanced practice nurse training includes managing full episodes of care. Picture: Tim George

Advanced practice nursing (APN) can help countries to develop stronger healthcare systems, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has said.

The council has published guidelines on APN that aim to improve understanding of this specialism among governments, policymakers, educators, the nursing and healthcare professions, and the public.

Ability to provide complex care

The ICN describes nurses working at advanced practice level as being educated to ‘a minimum’ of master’s degree level, and able to manage full episodes of care and complex healthcare problems.

Differences and similarities between the advanced practice roles of clinical nurse specialist and nurse practitioner are set out in the guidelines, including a stipulation that both should be recognised through a system of credentialing.


Howard Catton. Picture: Barney Newman

ICN chief executive Howard Catton said the COVID-19 pandemic had revealed the weakness and fragility of many of the world's healthcare systems.

‘There is no single solution, but we would be missing a major trick if we did not recognise that APN represents a huge opportunity to develop and grow strong health systems,’ he said.

'APN has a leading role to play in the prevention and containment of diseases, as well as providing first contact and long-term care, while benefiting vulnerable groups that other healthcare professionals may not reach.’

Helping to create more nurse-led services

The ICN has called on governments and healthcare authorities to use the new guidelines to support nurses to work to their full scope of practice and design and implement nurse-led services.

The guidelines may also influence some NHS employers to stop giving unregistered or inexperienced nurses job titles that contain the word ‘advanced’.

Research from London South Bank University found more than 300 NHS roles with titles such as ‘advanced nurse practitioner’, ‘assistant nurse practitioner’ and ‘specialist nurse’, which were used by staff who possessed no formal nursing qualification registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.


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