The enemy within: Power and politics in the transition to nurse practitioner

Publication Type:
Journal Article
NursingPlus Open, 2016, 2 pp. 1 - 7
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© 2016 The Authors. Background: The period of transition from registered nurse to nurse practitioner is often challenging. While adjusting to their autonomous role, nurse practitioners need to create and define a distinct role for themselves within practice contexts that may be unfamiliar, sometimes unwelcoming and inhospitable. During this time of transition, nurses need well developed negotiation skills and personal attributes including resilience, tenacity, fortitude and determination. Purpose of the research: The purpose of the research reported in this paper was to explore the transition experiences of 10 newly endorsed nurse practitioners in Australia during their first year of practice. This paper focuses on power, control and political manoeuvring that negatively impacted the [U+05F3]nurse practitioners[U+05F3] transition. A qualitative approach using a modified version of Carspecken[U+05F3]s five stage critical ethnography, informed by focused ethnography, was the methodology selected for this study. Methods included observations of practice, journaling, face to face and phone interviews which were recorded, transcribed and analysed thematically. Results: "The enemy within" emerged as a dominant theme highlighting issues of power, powerlessness and politics dominating the participant[U+05F3]s experiences. Power struggles amongst nurses, both overt and covert, and the deliberate misuse of power were frequently encountered. Many of the participants felt powerless and ill-prepared to negotiate the challenging situations in which they found themselves. Many lacked the skills needed to address the negative behaviours they experienced. Conclusions: This paper reports on the experiences of 10 newly endorsed nurse practitioners during their transition to the nurse practitioner role. The impact of the political climate at the time of this study had an undeniable influence on many of the participants[U+05F3] transition experiences. Competition for the limited numbers of designated nurse practitioner positions led to hostility between senior nurses and, in some contexts, a jostling for power, control, prestige and position. Rather than camaraderie, cooperation and collaboration, many of the participants described feeling besieged, undermined and alienated. The new nurse practitioners felt isolated, unwelcomed and unsupported. Several felt burnt out and abandoned their aspirations to be become a nurse practitioner. They left and returned to practice as a registered nurse.
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