Nurse practitioners (NPs) are being encouraged to practice to the full extent of their skills, and they have a critical role to play in leading health system reform. The evidence in support of NP-led initiatives is growing; however, in spite of the positive outcomes associated with these initiatives, considerable opposition to and debate about the potential for NPs to lead health system change and interprofessional teams continues. To date, we know very little about NP leadership activities, particularly those activities that contribute to primary care system change, and there are very few examples of this type of leadership. The qualitative descriptive study here was part of a larger case study that examined stakeholder participation in a system change led by NPs. The change involved the introduction of a new NP-led model of team-based primary care delivery in Ontario, Canada. Data from participant interviews and public documents were analyzed to describe the activities and attributes (perseverance, risk-taking and effective communication) of two NP leaders who were the drivers of this change. Knowledge of these activities and attributes has the potential to inform NP leadership roles in health system policy planning and implementation. However, to be able to provide effective leadership in system change, NPs need access to educational content about public policy and opportunities to develop and practice the skills required to work with multiple stakeholders, including those who oppose change.
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