Registered nurse scope of practice in Australia: An integrative review of the literature

Melanie Birks, Jenny Davis, John Smithson, Robyn Cant

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The nursing profession comprises Australia’s largest regulated health workforce yet its practice boundaries are poorly understood. The ambiguity surrounding the practice scope of nurses limits the profession's ability to fully respond to Australia’s current and emerging health system challenges. The aim of this review is to explore the concept of scope of practice of registered nurses (RN) in Australia, as reflected in contemporary literature. An integrative review of literature relating to the scope of practice of the Australian registered nurse published between 2007 and 2014 was conducted. Twenty primary papers and nine secondary source papers were included in the review. Themes that arose from the analysis are: Scope of practice – an elusive concept; Scope of practice and context; Scope of practice and boundaries; and Scope of practice and advanced practice. Discussion of these themes includes consideration of the professional, legal and ethical significance of scope of practice for the RN, as well as the legislative, professional and contextual influences on, and challenges to, defining scope of practice at both a professional and individual level. For the Australian registered nursing workforce to continue to be a significant and influential contributor to Australia’s dynamic healthcare context, a clearly articulated scope of practice is both necessary and overdue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)522-543
Number of pages22
JournalContemporary Nurse
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2016


  • advanced practice
  • registered nursing role
  • role boundaries
  • scope of practice

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