I commenced this research intending to explore clinical leadership in nursing within a District Health Board setting in a study that was based on the principles of action research, that is research which is cyclic, qualitative and participatory. The role of Clinical Nurse Leader in the District Health Board matters. It matters to the organisation, it matters to the patients and it matters to me. Due to the nature of action research the evolution of the project was unpredictable but it was expected that myself at the outset as principal investigator alongside the participants would be involved in a responsive, emergent, flexible and reflective approach. Firstly, the professional preparation for the CNL role has been previously influenced and restricted to known leadership models and non-nursing management philosophy. In addition to this limited influence, there has been a very minimal amount of New Zealand research carried out on this role. I commenced this research aiming to inform any further evolution of the role and to improve the support afforded the role. I decided that those in the role would define the role and be co- researchers.
Action research with my colleagues has been challenging and complex, fascinating and, to some extent, an episode of discovery. It reaffirmed the way I know others and how that might appear and what that translates into, as Wadsworth describes, spoken or unspoken, conscious or subconscious. It also uncovered how I behave as a result of that knowing. I am reminded of the opening words of this thesis which finishes “exercise stewardship without control”. As a group, we completed a significant piece of research that explored the role of CNL without any control over how the research would unfold or what would be the outcomes. That is the beauty of action research. The qualitative nature of the research allowed for not only an opportunity to display just exactly how it is to be in the role of Clinical Nurse Leader but also to include both the challenges and privileges that this methodology affords the principal investigator. It was, as I said at the outset, to be a time of growth. I entered the research with my expectations of the group and in order to demonstrate reflexiveness and thus strengthen the validity, I recorded my perspective as we worked as a group.