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A primary health care team's view of the nurse practitioner role in primary care

Marsden, Janet E. and Street, Clare G. (2004) A primary health care team's view of the nurse practitioner role in primary care. Primary health care research and development, 5 (1). pp. 17-27. ISSN 1477-1128

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Abstract

The study reported here is one part of a wider study, evaluating the role of the nurse practitioner (NP) in primary care This part of the study focussed on the views of the primary health care team (PHCT) regarding their experience of working with two NPs. A project to place Master's prepared nurse practitioners (NP) in general practitioner practices was undertaken with the intention of more fully meeting the needs of practice populations in a deprived inner city area. The roles were supported and funded by the health authority and the placements were intended to be time limited with placement and funding to be reviewed. The project incorporated a planned evaluation of the role and this included a study of consultation patterns, caseload and this particular element, a study of PHCT members' attitudes to and experiences of the role. A purposive sample of 27 staff were interviewed using a partially structured interview format. Each interview lasted around 30 minutes with two researchers undertaking both collection and analysis of the interview data. Subsequently, an additional six staff were also interviewed in an opportunistic manner, at their request. The findings identified two main foci of the NP; as an ‘extra pair of hands’ and as a colleague undertaking a different, valuable and complementary service to existing staff. The pivotal role of the receptionist in the integration of the new role in to the practice and the acceptance of it by patients was clear. General practitioners (GPs) exhibited paradoxical views, particularly with respect to problems of throughput; the NP having longer appointments and therefore usually undertaking fewer consultations than GPs in any session, leading to perceptions of an expensive and perhaps less effective service in terms of its effect on the workload. Within the same interview however, GPs discarded throughput as an effective measure of patient care and highlighted the many benefits of NP consultation. This tension between cost and effectiveness would benefit from more effective analysis and evaluation. The members of the PHCT express many different views, often related to their professional priorities, but all appear to support the NP role enthusiastically, considering it a positive step which benefits the team, patient care and choice.

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