What Constitutes an Expert Registered Nurse in Labour & Delivery?: A Phenomenological Inquiry
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The purpose of this study was to explore what constitutes an expert registered nurse in a labour and delivery unit. A qualitative, phenomenological approach was used to guide and analyze the interviews of twelve participants recruited through purposeful sampling. Patricia Benner’s From Novice to Expert theory was used as both a theoretical definition of expert as well as a baseline for participants to self-identify with one of the levels of skill acquisition (novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient or expert). Three themes emerged from data analysis including: 1) characteristics of expert nurses, 2) significance and impact of loss and 3) difficulty with the word “expert”. The study results showed that expert is a fluid concept that is both difficult to define and maintain throughout a nurse’s career. Factors such as education, technology, culture, environment and most notably autonomy, impact a nurse’s ability to achieve expert status as well as the ability to remain an expert of the same capacity throughout their careers. In addition, environmental and practice related changes resulted in feelings of loss that also significantly impacted the nurse’s perception of expert nursing. Ultimately, it was identified that Benner’s definition of expert is not complete and would require additional research with a focus on relational and psychosocial elements of nursing specifically in the area of labour and delivery setting in order to achieve a more comprehensive definition.