In the UK, Europe and the USA conceptual models of nursing are features of many undergraduate nursing curricula [Alligood MR. The nature of knowledge needed for nursing practice. In Alligood MR, Marriner-Tomey A, editors. Nursing theory utilisation and application. London: Mosby, 2002, Tierney AJ. Nursing models extant or extinct? J Adv Nurs 1998;8(1):77-85] and commonly used in practice. However, UK nurses in practice continue to be dissatisfied with conceptual model use [Griffiths P. An investigation into the description of patients' problems by nurses using two different needs-based nursing models. J Adv Nurs 1998;28(5):969-977, Mason C. Guide to practice or 'load of rubbish'? The influence of care plans on nursing practice in five clinical areas in Northern Ireland. J Adv Nurs 1999;29(2):380-387, Murphy K, Cooney A, Casey D, Connor M, O'Connor J., Dineen B. The Roper, Logan and Tierney Model: perceptions and operationalization of the model in psychiatric nursing within one health board in Ireland. J Adv Nurs 2000;31(6):1333-1341]. An association with increased paperwork and documentation together with a belief that these abstract concepts do not quite fit with the practice setting has resulted in a generalised apathy towards their use in some areas [Timmins F. Critical care nursing in the 21st Century. Intensive Crit Care Nurs 2002;18:118-127]. In an era of concerns about both cost and quality, together with an increased impetus towards multi-professional working patterns and role expansion, alternative models of care, such as critical pathways and care pathways are gaining increased favour in the clinical setting [Johnson S, editor. Pathways of care. Oxford; Blackwell Science 1997]. The aim of this paper is to consider whether or not the traditional conceptual models of nursing are apt for today's practicing coronary care nurse. Specific questions to be addressed are: what is the research evidence that informs conceptual model use in coronary care and what are the conceptual models that commonly inform contemporary practice in coronary care nursing? Suggested ways forward for conceptual model use within nursing are also proposed.
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