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An exploration of providing mental health skills in a generic advanced clinical practice programme

11 July 2019
12 min read
Volume 28 · Issue 13



advanced clinical practitioners (ACPs) are expected to be competent in their holistic assessment and management of individuals, which includes those with both physical and mental health problems. A mental health component was introduced within a generic advanced practitioner programme to support the development of mental health skills required by advanced clinical practitioners in training (ACPiTs).


this research investigated the efficacy of content specific to mental health within an MSc ACP generic programme.


a single case study approach was adopted, which used a purposive sample of 10 ACPiTs to explore personal beliefs and experiences using semistructured interviews. Verbatim transcription was undertaken followed by content and thematic analysis.


Themes emerged included communication skills, and increased competence and self-awareness.


insights provided by the ACPiTs showed they recognised the value of mental health teaching and exposure within their training programme in advancing their knowledge and skillset and, ultimately, increasing confidence in their clinical practice.

Advanced practitioners (APs) have been part of the UK healthcare workforce since the 1990s. They emerged within a changing workforce landscape, as nurses extended their scope of practice and doctors reduced their hours through the working time directive (Pierce and Belling, 2011). The AP role has evolved more recently to the advanced clinical practitioner (ACP), whose work encompasses many practitioner roles, not just nursing.

A broadly similar definition of advanced clinical practice exists across the UK. Each endorses a framework; documents on the role, the frameworks and their development have been produced by Scotland's Chief Nursing Officer Directorate (2008; 2017), the Welsh Government (2010), Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety Northern Ireland (2016), and Health Education England (HEE, 2017). These documents argue that ACPs have complex decision-making skills, are educated to master's level, can act autonomously and work in a variety of settings, which underline that the ACP role should be seen as an evolving level of practice rather than simply a position.

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