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Public satisfied with service provided by nurse practitioners

But new study also shows greater public education around the role of NPs is needed.

Patients report a high level of satisfaction after visiting a nurse practitioner, but many are confused about their role and what services they can provide, a new study has found.

“Nurse practitioners (NPs) are playing an increasingly important role in the Australian health care system. However, there is a lack of data about public understanding of the NP role. The aim of this study was to evaluate clients’ understanding of the role of the NP and their satisfaction with education received, quality of care and NP knowledge and skill,” said study leader Dr Sandy Middleton from Australian Catholic University.

Out of the 129 clients surveyed, two-thirds were aware they were consulting an NP. The responses were overwhelmingly positive on all items of client satisfaction and confidence in the care provided by NPs, the study found.

More than 95 per cent of clients ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that they felt confident with the care provided by the NP. The education provided, quality of care, and the knowledge and skill demonstrated by the NP were rated as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ by almost 90 per cent, 95 per cent and 93 per cent respectively.

“There was some confusion among clients about the specific tasks that comprise the NP scope of practice. The majority of clients acknowledged that NPs could take blood pressure readings (92 per cent), refer to doctors (86 per cent) and order tests (67 per cent). However, less than half the clients reported NPs could prescribe medications (47 per cent),” Middleton said.

The results suggest that despite high levels of confidence and satisfaction after consultations with NPs, clients perceive an ambiguity around the specific tasks included in the NP scope of practice. This uncertainty may reduce the likelihood of a client independently choosing to consult an NP. Indeed, only 55 per cent of clients had intended to consult an NP on the day of their visit. The growth of the NP positions could be boosted in the community by making their role less ambiguous, she said.

The study appears in the current edition of the ‘Australian Health Review’.

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