Document Type



School of Nursing and Midwifery, East Africa


Background: Definitions of advanced nursing practice abound, yet little has been published concerning the context for advanced nursing in sub-Saharan Africa. This study set out to explore the existence of, and potential for, advanced nursing practice in Kenya.

Methods: Ten nurses were invited to participate in semi-structured qualitative interviews. Participants were purposively selected to provide insight into the practice of experienced nurses in urban, rural, community, hospital, public and private health care settings. Interview narratives were recorded, transcribed and subsequently analysed using a thematic approach.

Results: All participants reported that they were engaged in the delivery of expert, evidence-based care. The majority also undertook administrative activities, teaching in the practice area and policy and practice advocacy. However, only the two private practice nurses interviewed during the study were working with the level of autonomy that might be expected of advanced nurse practitioners.

Conclusions: While participants were undertaking many of the activities associated with advanced nursing roles, advanced nursing practice as widely understood in the (largely western derived) international literature was not identified. The nurses practicing with the greatest autonomy were generally those with the lowest educational qualifications rather than the highest. Highly qualified nurses and midwives tend to move into management and education, and see little opportunity for advancement while remaining in clinical practice. It is notable that, although a growing number of universities offer master’s level education, no African countries have yet regulated an advanced level of practice. The existence of the physician substitute ‘clinical officer’ cadre in Kenya, as in other Sub-Saharan African countries, suggests that the development of the advanced nurse practitioner role is unlikely at present. However, there is a pressing need for advanced nurses and midwives who can implement evidence-based practice and exercise clinical leadership in the drive to attain the Millennium Development Goals and their post-2015 successors.


BMC Nursing

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