Nurses provide care comparable to that of doctors for resolving health problems of low complexity

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Washington: A new study has found that Spanish nurses trained specifically to resolve acute health problems of low complexity provide care of comparable quality to that of general practitioners.

Published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, the findings suggest that nurses may be able to take on some of the care generally provided by physicians.

Dr Mireia Fabregas, of the Institut Catala de la Salut, in Barcelona, Spain, and her colleagues randomized 1461 adult patients who requested same day appointments to see either nurses trained to respond to problems with low complexity or to see general practitioners.

The study was conducted in 38 general practices in Catalonia, Spain, and 142 general practitioners and 155 nurses participated. The investigators measured how well patients’ symptoms resolved and how satisfied patients were two weeks after the visit.

The investigators found that nurses successfully solved 86.3 per cent of the cases. The health problem that nurses solved with greatest ease was burns, followed by injuries and acute diarrhoea.

Nurses were less successful at resolving low back pain, acute mild upper respiratory symptoms, and urinary discomfort.

“This lower resolution could be explained by the fact that these problems require more complex physical examinations that are not usual in a nurse’s daily work,” says Dr Fabregas.

Patients who saw nurses were equally satisfied with their visit as those who saw doctors. When patients were asked about their preferences regarding which professional they would like to visit if a similar health problem arose again, more than 40 per cent of patients in each group expressed indifference.

“This study could help to reduce resistance to change in both physicians and nurses, as well as in the general population, generating confidence in the care provided by nurses,” says Dr Fabregas.

She and her co-authors note that having nurses solve acute diseases of low complexity could help improve overall health care efficiency.

Categories: Family Medicine, RESEARCH

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