Comparison of GP and nurse practitioner consultations: an observational study

Seale, Clive; Anderson, Elizabeth; Kinnersley, Paul
December 2005
British Journal of General Practice;Dec2005, Vol. 55 Issue 521, p938
Academic Journal
Background Studies show that satisfaction with nurse practitioner care is high when compared with GPs. Clinical outcomes are similar. Nurse practitioners spend significantly longer on consultations. Aim We aimed to discover what nurse practitioners do with the extra time, and how their consultations differ from those of GPs. Design of study Comparative content analysis of audiotape transcriptions of 18 matched pairs of nurse practitioner and GP consultations. Setting Nine general practices in south Wales and south west England. Method Consultations were taped and clinicians' utterances coded into categories developed inductively from the data, and deductively from the literature review. Results Nurse practitioners spent twice as long with their patients and both patients and clinicians spoke more in nurse consultations. Nurses talked significantly more than GPs about treatments and, within this, talked significantly more about how to apply or carry out treatments. Weaker evidence was found for differences in the direction of nurses being more likely to: discuss social and emotional aspects of patients' lives; discuss the likely course of the patient's condition and side effects of treatments; and to use humour. Some of the extra time was also spent in getting doctors to approve treatment plans and sign prescriptions. Conclusions The provision of more information in the longer nurse consultations may explain differences in patient satisfaction found in other studies. Clinicians need to consider how much information it is appropriate to provide to particular patients.


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