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More than 50 advanced nurses are credentialed in new scheme

In September the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced that 51 advanced nurse practitioners had received accreditation in the first four months of the new voluntary credentialing scheme.

The RCN's credentialing scheme for advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs) was piloted at the end of 2016 and officially launched in May this year. So far only three nurses have failed to meet the accreditation criteria and, as well as the 51 who have achieved accreditation, in September there were 57 more nurses whose applications were being assessed.

Credentialing involves assessing the qualifications, experience and competence of nurses who are practising at an advanced level. It enables them to gain formal recognition of their level of expertise in clinical practice, as well as their leadership skills, education and research experience. Accreditation is relevant not only to the nurses themselves, but also to colleagues, employers, patients and the public.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has published competency standards for registered nurses. However, there are no standards specifically for advanced nurse practitioners. The RCN hopes that its scheme will lead to the NMC introducing a new competency framework for ANPs. "Credentialing is part of the way to fill that regulatory gap but only NMC can do that fully," said Nicholas Paterson, the RCN's Project Manager for credentialing. "The RCN is doing as much as it possibly can to drive up standards and to recognise them in the interim."

Mr Paterson also said that the RCN accreditation scheme has generally been well received by employers, some of whom have even offered to pay the £275 registration fee on behalf of nurses. Many advertisements for advanced practitioner nursing jobs now include a statement that accreditation under the RCN credentialing scheme is a desirable asset for the job applicant.

In 2015, the validity of the advanced nurse practitioner role was evaluated by researchers from the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. Their findings were summarised in a report published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, which concluded that ANPs undertaking duties traditionally performed by junior doctors can have a positive impact on a range of indicators relating to patient, staff and organisational outcomes. The report also said that ANPs can have a positive impact on other staff by improving knowledge, skills and competence, as well as quality of working life, distribution of workload and teamworking.

The advanced nurse practitioner role is thought to have originated in the USA in the 1960s. By 2003, there were over 60 countries developing or implementing such roles, with a variety of job titles in use, including clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner and nurse consultant. In the UK, the adoption of a maximum 48-hour working week for junior doctors has resulted in the traditional role of nurses being expanded. NHS Education for Scotland has responded to the demand for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals with a new training programme to develop newly qualified nurses into specialists.

The advanced nurse practitioner role continues to develop against the backdrop of an NHS facing unprecedented challenges, not least an ageing population and more people living with long-term conditions. ANPs have been successfully introduced in many different settings including GP practices, relieving pressure on doctors and enabling patients to access care more quickly and efficiently.

"Nurses have always responded to the healthcare needs of their patients and clients and developed their roles accordingly; and the advanced nurse practitioner is no different," wrote Anne Baileff, a Principal Teaching Fellow at the University of Southampton's Faculty of Health Sciences, in a recent article for Nursing in Practice. "ANPs in primary care and the community are able to develop close, long-term relationships with their patients and work in partnership with them to help them achieve their optimum level of health."

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