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Advanced Practice Nurse: Meaning and Examples

Advanced practice is a nursing level where you manage patients with complex healthcare needs.

Healthcare professional in dark blue scrubs holding stethoscope


Advanced practice nurses are defined by the level at which they operate. They lead others, work autonomously, manage patients with complex healthcare needs, and practice with relevant expertise. They can be clinical specialists or perform general duties.

This definition captures the key elements of the extended official definition. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) defines advanced practice nursing this way:

  • Nurses practising at an advanced practice level incorporate professional leadership, education, research and support of systems into their practice.
  • Their practice includes relevant expertise, critical thinking, complex decision-making, autonomous practice and is effective and safe.
  • They work within a generalist or specialist context and they are responsible and accountable in managing people who have complex healthcare requirements.

The NMBA also emphasises that advanced practice is demonstrated by the level of practice, not by a job title or pay grade.

Source: Fact Sheet: Advanced Nursing Practice and Specialty Areas Within Nursing

Criteria for Advanced Practice Nursing

The above definition implicitly rules out practice where a nurse has no leadership role, is not an expert in their current field, is routinely supervised, is not responsible for managing complex cases, or has limited decision-making responsibility.

We can tease out the various elements to establish a set of criteria for nursing practice to be advanced:

  1. Professional leadership.
    Leads others in a professional capacity.
  2. Autonomous practice.
    Works autonomously.
  3. Responsible and accountable for complex cases.
    Manages patients with complex requirements.
  4. Generalist or specialist context.
    May be a clinical specialist or perform general duties.
  5. Relevant expertise.
    Uses relevant expertise.
  6. Education.
    Contributes to educational initiatives.
  1. Research involvement.
    Integrates research into their work.
  2. Support of systems.
    Supports healthcare systems.
  3. Critical thinking.
    Employs critical thinking.
  4. Complex decision-making.
    Engages in complex decision-making.
  5. Effective and safe practice.
    Ensures effectiveness and safety in care delivery.