Nurse Education Today
School of Nursing and Midwifery
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd Objectives: To synthesise the current evidence of the implications of postgraduate nursing qualifications on patient and nurse outcomes. Design: A systematic review. Data sources: Primary research findings. Review methods: A systematic search following PRISMA guidelines and the Joanna Briggs Institute's framework was conducted. A structured and comprehensive search of three electronic databases CINAHL, MEDLINE, PsychINFO, search engine Google Scholar, and a manual-search of reference lists was undertaken. The search was limited to articles in English between 2000 and 2019. The combined search yielded 3710 records. Search records were exported to EndNote X8 and duplicates were removed. Inclusion eligibility was assessed by title, abstract and full text. All team members were involved in selecting the studies and assessing methodical quality. Discrepancies were resolved through rigorous discussion between the reviewers. Twenty studies (quantitative and qualitative) were finally selected as suitable for inclusion in the review. A qualitative descriptive synthesis was undertaken to summarise and report the findings. Results: This systematic review has shown that the empirical evidence to date does not support nurses' perceptions of the implications of postgraduate education. The findings from this review fell into three major themes: perceived implications of postgraduate study, clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction. Nurses perceived that postgraduate qualifications had improved their knowledge and skills and thus clinical practice, patient outcomes and health services. This perception has not been borne out by measurable outcomes as yet. The literature also suggests that postgraduate education should improve career opportunities and progression for nurses. This is not supported by the nurses' perceptions in the research available to date. It should be noted that these findings predominantly came from qualitative data. A few studies did report descriptive statistical analysis: demographics, knowledge levels, qualifications etc. None conducted any inferential statistical analysis. Conclusion: Although the literature suggests that postgraduate nursing qualifications improve outcomes for patients, the level of evidence is weak. Exploration methods are suggested to move beyond examining nurses' perceptions, to empirical measures of the value of postgraduate education on nurse and patient outcomes.
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