The influence of the supernumerary clinical nurse educator role on advancing graduate nurses’ quality of patient care: A mixed-methods study in a private Western Australian health service

Tracey Coventry


Theoretical and anecdotal evidence suggests that the presence of the supernumerary clinical nurse educator (CNE) in the acute care hospital clinical environment will positively affect patient quality outcomes. However, the supernumerary role suffers from scrutiny in response to the financial constraints of healthcare organisations, and is questioned regarding sustainability. The lack of empirical research diminishes the CNE role and its benefit for patient quality of care. This research focuses on newly qualified graduate registered nurses (GRNs) employed in a graduate programme and supported by the CNE in the clinical environment in order to articulate the effect of the supernumerary CNE on the GRNs’ patient outcomes. The mixed-methods research describes the CNE role specifically related to the GRNs’ transition to practice and quality of patient care. The results suggest that the CNE’s value derives from the supernumerary presence—through the resource-rich educator role and the experiential learning opportunities provided. These play a significant role in the GRNs’ successful transition to practice and clinical confidence. The ability of GRNs to safely engage in patient care is linked to CNE role translation into practice, promotion of evidence-based care theory and policy in practice, and progression of reflective practices influencing GRNs’ professionalism and maturity. The CNE role is identified as a congruent clinical leader who is approachable, supportive, connected and passionate about patient care. Undesirable attributes of the CNE role are associated with unsuitable personal characteristics, incompatible relationships with the clinical nurse manager and GRNs, and an inability to meet the expectations and criteria of the role. The organisational demands of role reassignment and role relief produce role strain and conflict that reduce the value of the CNE role.

The audience who will profit from this research include present and future CNEs, nurses, clinical and administrative leaders, and healthcare organisations. The implications of this study not only relate to the role of CNEs in supporting GRNs’ transition to practice in the acute care hospital setting, but also to CNEs’ clinical leadership. CNEs are a practical solution to champion the success of the newly qualified registered nurse—our future nursing workforce.