The impact of continuing professional development on patient care : the perceptions of Australian nurse practitioners

  • Anthony Summers

Student thesis: Professional Doctorate


Background: With the introduction of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and the Australian Health Professional Regulatory Agency in 2010 saw continuing professional development (CPD) become a mandatory activity for Nurse Practitioners. Standards set by the NMBA state that Nurse Practitioners are required to undertake 30 hours of CPD each year.
The expense of this CPD is borne by both the Nurse Practitioner and the public healthcare system. Despite the cost of CPD to the Nurse Practitioner, research around the impact of CPD on patient care is limited to other healthcare professionals not the Nurse Practitioner.
Aim: This study aimed to understand the perceptions of Australian Nurse Practitioners about the impact their CPD has on the care they provide for their patients. To achieve this aim, the following research questions were explored from the perspective of the Australian Nurse Practitioner: how Nurse Practitioners perceive their CPD impacts on patient care; the motivations of Nurse Practitioners to undertake CPD, and the perceived barriers the Nurse
Practitioner faces in obtaining CPD.
Methods: An exploratory sequential mixed-methods research design was used, using Critical Realism as a sense-making framework. Three individual studies were undertaken. Study One involved a focus group, used as an expert panel to review the draft survey questions and to increase the confidence of the online survey tool used in Study Two. Study Three involved 15 structured interviews with volunteer Nurse Practitioners. In a fourth stage, the data from Studies One, Two, and Three were triangulated to provide an analytic synthesis of the results.
Results: This study has shown that Australian Nurse Practitioners do perceive an impact on patient care from the CPD they undertake. These Australian Nurse Practitioners recognised the importance of CPD and are motivated by the improved patient care they witness. Other motivations include their desire to expand both their scope of practice and clinical knowledge.
Conclusion: This research has shown that the Australian Nurse Practitioner does perceive that there is an impact on patient care from the CPD they undertake. This perceived impact is via improvements in their knowledge and skills gained from attending CPD activities. These perceptions confirm the inferences made in the general nursing literature about the purpose of CPD. This perceived impact on patient care is multifactorial in nature.

What is the problem?
• CPD is a mandatory activity for Nurse Practitioners and is a costly and time-consuming activity
• There is no clear published evidence that CPD impacts on patient care.

What has this study done?
• Increased and described the understanding of the Nurse Practitioner’s perceptions about the impact their CPD has on patient care.
• Used Critical Realism as a framework to link the Nurse Practitioner experiences of CPD to the perceived impact of CPD.
• Triangulated the results of a focus group, an online exploratory survey and interviews to explore Nurse Practitioner perceptions of the perceived impact of CPD on patient care.

What has this study added?
• Nurse Practitioners undertake CPD because they perceive the impact it has, from the improvement in patient care, helping them justify the expense of CPD.
• Nurse Practitioners regularly undertake more CPD than mandated, despite the barriers they face, demonstrating their commitment to providing the highest standard of care.
• Nurse Practitioners see CPD activities with high clinical knowledge as having the greatest impact on patient care, as it is clinical knowledge that is used when caring for patients.
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCarmel Mcquellin (Supervisor), Jenny Browne (Supervisor), Eamon Merrick (Supervisor), Jennie Scarvell (Supervisor), Marjorie Barnwell (Supervisor), Gylo Hercelinskyj (Supervisor) & Mary Cruickshank (Supervisor)

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