Purpose: Revolutionary changes have taken place to nurses' roles and clinical responsibilities over the past decade, leading to new ways of working and higher levels of nursing practice. However, despite the development of nurse-led clinics and services within oncology there has been little formal evaluation. Methods: A survey of 103 UK oncology specialist nurses was undertaken to explore their scope of practice, with emphasis on nurse-led services. Results: The survey highlighted significant developments within nurses' roles and nurse-led services, although there was a distinct lack of clarity between nurses' titles and their roles/responsibilities. Most nurses had extended their role. However there were significant differences in the nature of clinical practice, such as clinical examination and nurse prescribing. Overall, new roles were greatly valued by the multidisciplinary team, reducing waiting times and providing benefits for patients. However other nurses felt frustrated by deficiencies in infrastructure and support, which often overshadowed potential benefits. Conclusions: There is a great diversity in oncology specialist nurses' roles; however lack of clarity in titles, training, competencies and responsibilities is creating confusion. Role developments and nurse-led clinics have been ad hoc and poorly evaluated. The introduction of a competency framework, national standards and a system of clinical appraisals seems key to providing increased transparency and vital safeguards for both nurses and patients. Without further exploration and evaluation of nurse-led initiatives it is difficult to fully appreciate their impact on patients, staff and service delivery.
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