Perspectives of Physicians and Nurse Practitioners on Primary Care Practice

This study suggests that increasing the scope of nurse practitioners’ duties remains controversial.

Expanding nurse practitioners’ scope of work has been proposed to address the shortage of primary care physicians. This survey of physicians and nurse practitioners assesses the degree to which these populations support proposals that expand nurse practitioners’ scope of work. 

The researchers conducted a national postal-mail survey of 972 clinicians (505 physicians and 467 nurse practitioners) in primary care. The survey was conducted from November 23, 2011 to April 9, 2012. The survey asked about scope of work, perceptions of labor supply and nurse-practitioner practice, and personal and clinical-practice characteristics.

Key Findings:

  • Nearly 96 percent of nurse practitioners and 76 percent of physicians agreed with the statement “nurse practitioners should be able to practice to the full extent of their education and training.”
  • Only 17 percent of physicians agreed that nurse practitioners should lead medical homes, and four percent agreed they should be paid equally for providing the same services, compared to 82 percent and 54 percent, respectively, among nurse practitioners.
  • Among physicians, 66 percent agreed that physicians provide a “higher quality of examination and consultation” than nurse practitioners. Yet a full 75 percent of nurse practitioners disagreed.

This study suggests that increasing the scope of nurse practitioners’ duties remains controversial. Many primary care physicians will be unlikely to embrace policy expanding the nurse practitioners’ role. The findings from this survey should be considered in addressing health care workforce challenges.

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