Patients' Attitudes Toward the Use of Nurse Practitioners

Laurie Maxwell, Western Kentucky University


Since the advent of the role of nurse practitioner in the mid 1960s, nurse practitioners have practiced in traditional settings such as health departments, clinics, and physicians' offices. More recently, nurse practitioners have been utilized in non-traditional settings such as the emergency department. Some studies have been done that support the theory that nurse practitioners can function effectively in this setting; however additional studies are needed on this topic. The purpose of this study was to explore patients' attitudes toward the use of nurse practitioners and to determine what patient variables were related to these attitudes. More specifically, this study focused on patients' attitudes about nurse practitioners working in the emergency department, a nontraditional practice setting for nurse practitioners. Two research questions were answered: (1) What are patients' attitudes about nurse practitioners? and (2) What subject variables are related to positive and negative attitudes about nurse practitioners? A telephone survey was conducted to adult patients who presented to the emergency room for treatment of conditions that were classified as "non-emergent" during the triage process. Patients were asked to answer questions concerning their visit to the emergency department. They were then asked to respond to 12 items on the Kviz Acceptance Questionnaire, which measured attitudes about nurse practitioners. Demographic data were collected from the medical record following the interview. The most significant finding of this study was that the role of nurse practitioner was generally accepted by patients presenting for treatment of non-emergent conditions in the emergency department. This finding is significant since the emergency department is not a traditional practice setting for nurse practitioners. Correlation coefficients showed that patients who had seen a nurse practitioner before were more accepting that those who had not seen a nurse practitioner. Patients who were younger, female, and who perceived their health as good or excellent had the most positive attitudes about nurse practitioners. Additional studies are needed to support the belief that nurse practitioners can function efficiently in the emergency department and other nontraditional settings. Information is also needed on the financial feasibility of such a plan. This time is one of great opportunity and challenge for advanced practice nurses to expand their roles in a rapidly changing health care environment.