Specialized and advanced psychiatric nursing practice is an innovative concept in the health care service in Hong Kong. A clear definition of the role and practice of psychiatric clinical nurse specialists (CNS) is important for the development of expert psychiatric nursing practice but is still in a formative stage. A qualitative exploratory study was conducted to identify the psychiatric CNS's perceptions of their role and to compare their perceptions with those of their clinical psychiatric nurse colleagues. The main themes emerging from interviews, observations, and personal diary data were compared and condensed. Eight CNSs and 24 clinical nurse colleagues from acute care and community psychiatric nursing units voluntarily participated in the study. A four-component framework, including clinical practice, organization, education, and professional role, was adopted from nursing literature and used for categorization. The findings showed similarities of role perceptions in the clinical practice, organization, and education components between the CNSs and their nursing colleagues. Differences in role perceptions, concerns about inadequate knowledge and autonomy, and limitations in professional role are discussed.
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