A clearer pathway—The future of the gynaecological oncology specialist nurse role

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Background: Over recent years there has been a proliferation in specialist nurse roles that require expertise and advanced practice in a particular field of nursing. In Australia and New Zealand, specialist nursing care of women with gynaecological cancers is recommended, however the role remains largely undefined and unregulated. Aims: To determine Australian and New Zealand gynaecological oncology specialist nurses’ perspectives on the future of their role, and make recommendations for future practice and education. Methods: An interpretive descriptive methodology was adopted for this study. Gynaecological oncology specialist nurses participated in individual and focus group interviews and a thematic analysis of transcribed data was conducted. Findings: Nineteen specialist nurses participated in the study and three major themes were derived from the interview data: The first theme, ‘Delineation of roles’ highlighted the challenges for specialist nurses inherent in new, poorly defined roles. ‘Identifiable career path’ explored the lack of clear education and career pathways and disparate nomenclature for their roles, which they believed impeded succession planning. The theme, ‘What should I be doing’, related to the bespoke development of participants’ current roles due to the paucity of formal guidelines for practice. Discussion: Gynaecological oncology specialist nurse roles have emerged and developed with limited direction from the nursing profession. Poor role legitimacy and a weak professional identity were evident among participants. Conclusions: Gynaecological oncology specialist nurses identified standardised nomenclature, defined career and education pathways, guidelines for practice, and succession planning as important elements in the progression of their roles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-395
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Advanced practice nursing
  • Career pathways
  • Gynaecological cancers
  • Nomenclature
  • Nursing education
  • Scope of practice
  • Specialist nursing

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