Comparison of Australian specialty nurse standards with registered nurse standards

Document Type


Publication details

Edmonds, L, Cashin, A & Heartfield, M 2016, 'Comparison of Australian specialty nurse standards with registered nurse standards', International Nursing Review, vol. 63, no. 2, pp. 162-179.

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Peer Reviewed




This study aimed to determine whether registered nurse Australian specialty competency standards identified unique capabilities of nursing practice.


Use of the term specialist in nursing commenced early in the twentieth century with the growth and diversification of postgraduate nursing education. Courses in speciality nursing were associated with the development of specialty competency standards in Australia.


Australian specialty standards were mapped against the current national competency standards for the registered nurse. Content analysis was used to cross-map the standards to the national standard domains of professional practice, critical thinking and analysis, provision and coordination of care, and collaborative and therapeutic practice.


Of the 28 sourced speciality standards, only the nursing informatics standards displayed unique elements of nursing practice. Other nursing capabilities such as leadership and person-centred care were prominent in speciality standards, while more difficult to interpret in the national standards. In addition, developmental and intellectual disability nursing was not evident in the national competency standards.


The findings above identified that nursing informatics were the only specialty standards that displayed unique capabilities of nursing practice when compared with the national competency standards. This raises the question of the value add specialty standards have on practice.


Very few unique capabilities of specialty nursing were expressed in these standards. The study identified that they had more potential in assisting registered nurses to interpret their national competency standards into specialist practice contexts.

Implications for nursing and health policy

It is proposed that specific performance indicators of how the registered nurse standards are applied in the specialty context are developed in place of multiple specialty standards.

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