AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: This purpose of this study was to describe the process of expertise acquisition in nephrology nursing practice. BACKGROUND: It has been recognized for a number of decades that experts, compared with other practitioners in a number of professions and occupations, are the most knowledgeable and effective, in terms of both the quantity and quality of output. Studies relating to expertise have been undertaken in a range of nursing contexts and specialties; to date, however, none have been undertaken which focus on nephrology nursing. DESIGN: This study, using grounded theory methodology, took place in one renal unit in New South Wales, Australia and involved six non-expert and 11 expert nurses. METHODS: Simultaneous data collection and analysis took place using participant observation, semi-structured interviews and review of nursing documentation. FINDINGS: The study revealed a three-stage skills-acquisitive process that was identified as non-expert, experienced non-expert and expert stages. Each stage was typified by four characteristics, which altered during the acquisitive process; these were knowledge, experience, skill and focus. CONCLUSION: This was the first study to explore nephrology nursing expertise and uncovered new aspects of expertise not documented in the literature and it also made explicit other areas, which had only been previously implied. Relevance to clinical practice. Of significance to nursing, the exercise of expertise is a function of the recognition of expertise by others and it includes the blurring of the normal boundaries of professional practice.
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