Commencing a nurse education role development journey in a regional Australian health district: results from a mixed method baseline inquiry

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Fairbrother, F, Rafferty, R, Woods, A, Tyler, V & Howell, W 2015, 'Commencing a nurse education role development journey in a regional Australian health district: results from a mixed method baseline inquiry', Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, vol. 5, no. 8, pp. 7-16.

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Background: Health service-based nurse education roles (NERs) are well positioned to support the integration of theory and practice in Australian nursing. Despite this they are widely viewed as both poorly described and undervalued. Objective: To establish role parameters, typical activity profiles and views and attitudes about their roles, professional practices & linkages, among a sample of regional Australian nurses in NERs.

Methods: Design: Participatory action research baseline inquiry. Participants: Nurse educators (NEs) and clinical nurse educators (CNEs) of the Northern New South Wales Local Health District. Mixed method baseline survey (n = 38, 84% response rate) and focus group study (3 groups, n = 33 participants in total).

Results: Most survey participants were active in writing education programme material for Registered Nurses (RNs). Two thirds of survey respondents reported responsibility for medical staff training. CNEs were called upon to provide clinical relief (prompted by high patient acuity, sick leave and meal breaks) to the wards and units significantly more frequently than NEs. Activity logging indicated wide-ranging role domain diversity. Providing education and supporting clinical staff were the most prominent role domains for both NEs and CNEs. Dissatisfaction with aspects of NER was high – no role domain attracted higher than 60% overall satisfaction from this representative sample. Most participants were not research-active and many indicated the need for improvements in their linkages to the nursing academy. Focus group discussion suggested a group who were spread thinly, answerable to multiple governance tiers and intellectually under-supported. No consistent guiding educational philosophy was discernible in relation to participants’ own teaching activity. Conclusions: Principle issues related to the diversity of operational and professional responsibility tied to multiple impacting governance structures. Stable and purposeful linkages to nursing faculties/academia were also lacking.

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