The aim of this study was to explore the concept of leadership as it applies to nurse practitioners (NPs) and examine the issues around assessing NP candidates in Australia for leadership qualities. Currently in Australia, registration as a nurse, midwife, enrolled nurse or nurse practitioner is conducted at the state or territory rather than the national level. Nurse practitioner is a protected title in Australia. To practice as a nurse practitioner in Australia, candidates must
be endorsed or authorised by the nurse registering authority in the relevant state or territory of Australia. The NP candidate can be based in both hospital and community settings, caring for both inpatients and outpatients, over a range of specialty areas. The context of this paper is Victoria, Australia. Currently there is no national process for the registration of NPs. Each Australian state or territory determines its own
Clinical leadership is difficult to define and assessment of NP candidates for leadership qualities can be subjective and inconsistent. Leadership is often confused with management and those who are seen by their colleagues as leaders are not necessarily in senior positions. NP candidates applying for endorsement or authorisation to practice as a nurse practitioner are assessed for competency in leadership by the nurse registering authorities with no clear defining criteria. Many of the leadership indicators may fall under a different Standard of Competency for NPs (ANMC 2006).
The evolution of NPs in Victoria, Australia, has been an arduous process. The first Victorian NPs were endorsed by the nurse registering authority in 2004. Each state and territory in Australia has different requirements for the NP candidate to fulfill although nationally consistent approaches to educational requirements and endorsement for NPs are in progress. The role of NPs has been opposed by certain groups such as the Australian Medical Association which has further complicated the progress of this emerging nursing role. All NP roles are evaluated in the context of their specialty and location (metropolitan, rural or remote; hospital or community) using the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council Competency Standards for Nurse Practitioners (ANMC 2006). The measurement of NP candidates against some of the competency standards is challenging. One of these aspects, which is arguably the most difficult to define, is leadership. This paper seeks to highlight the difficulties in measuring leadership in NP candidates and seeks to clarify what leadership could mean for the NP. It also proposes creative means of assessing NP candidates for leadership qualities in the absence of clear guidelines.
In order to become endorsed as a NP in Victoria, Australia, there are three generic standards a NP candidate is required to meet. Prior to interview, the NP submits their curriculum vitae and professional portfolio for assessment. Interviews are conducted by assessment panels consisting of a clinical pharmacologist, a medical specialist, relevant senior nursing personnel and a representative from the nurse regulatory authority. Following successful interview(s), referees are checked, usually by detailed written forms as well as verbal ...