Abstract

The nursing workforce is faced with shortages of near crisis proportions, yet little is understood about the optimal utilization of various categories of nurses - Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), Registered Nurses (RNs) and Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPNs). The primary purpose in this study was to elicit the perceptions of nurses (RNs, LPNs, and RPNs) of what "working to full scope of practice" meant to them. Participants included acute care nurses in three health regions in western Canada. A key finding from the study was the fact that nurses most often discussed scope of practice by reference to the tasks they perform, rather than the roles they play in healthcare delivery. Assessment and coordination of care were two components of nursing work that most differentiated the three nursing roles. Nonetheless, insufficient role differentiation among nurses and between nurses and other healthcare professionals leaves some nurses feeling devalued and not respected for their contribution to healthcare delivery.