Background: Over recent decades, there has been considerable research and debate about essential features of advanced nursing practice and differences among various categories of advanced practice nurses.
Objectives: This study aimed to derive an integrative description of the defining characteristics of advanced practice nursing through a meta-summary of the existing literature.
Methods: A three-phase approach involved (a) systematic review of the literature to identify the specific activities characterized as advanced practice nursing, (b) qualitative meta-summary of practice characteristics extracted from manuscripts meeting inclusion criteria; and (c) statistical analysis of domains across advanced practice categories and country in which the study was completed. A descriptive framework was distilled using qualitative and quantitative results.
Results: Fifty manuscripts met inclusion criteria and were retained for analysis. Seven domains of advanced nursing practice were identified: (a) autonomous or nurse-led extended clinical practice; (b) improving systems of care; (c) developing the practice of others; (d) developing/delivering educational programs/activities; (e) nursing research/scholarship; (f) leadership external to the organization; and (g) administering programs, budgets, and personnel. Domains were similar across categories of advanced nursing practice; the domain of developing/delivering educational programs/activities was more common in Australia than in the United States or United Kingdom.
Discussion: Similarity at the domain level was sufficient to suggest that advanced practice role categories are less distinct than often argued. There is merit in adopting a more integrated and consistent interpretation of advanced practice nursing.