Developing lecturer practitioner roles in nursing using action research
The lecturer practitioner role in nursing is widely seen as offering hope for the future of nurse education, by overcoming the 'theory-practice gap', and establishing and maintaining effective links at many different levels between education and practice. It is clear, however, that there are a number of issues of concern about the role. These can be summarised as: lack of role clarity about overcoming the theory-practice gap; varying conceptions of the role and unclear job descriptions; and role conflicts and overload, from the conflicting demands of service and education settings Despite current political support for strengthening the links between higher education institutions and practice settings, a new governmental emphasis on the support of students in practice, and a growing in-depth evaluative literature about the role, there is no research examining its systematic development, or measuring and addressing aspects of lecturer practitioners' occupational stress and burnout. Initial project planning work found that lecturer practitioners perceived themselves as 'adding value' to education provision, with personal and professional gains for postholders. However, their key concerns were: absence of role clarity; absence of effective joint review/appraisal;a bsenceo f formal support In, order to develop and address aspects of lecturer practitioners' work roles and their employment position, this action research project was established. Using a spiral methodological framework, and a multi-methods approach to data collection to triangulate the findings, new knowledge about lecturer practitioner roles was uncovered, and employment practices were developed as a result. The project established three new mechanisms, and these outcomes can be summarised as: joint appraisal policies and materials; orientation/induction policies and materials; group support network. In addition, previously validated measures of occupational stress and burnout were used to meas. ure those conceptsi n this group of lecturer practitioners, and the impact of the project. They were found to be generally no more stressed or burnt out than comparable workers, and the project was unable to demonstrate statistically significant differences in beforeand after-scores. Synthesis of quantitative and qualitative findings indicates that these LPs were 'thriving rather than just surviving'.