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Spanish study: Nurses' care quality equal to MDs

Saturday March 23, 2013
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In a Spanish study, nurses trained specifically to resolve acute health problems of low complexity provided care of comparable quality to that of general practitioners.

The findings, published March 21 on the website of the Journal of Advanced Nursing, suggest nurses may be able to take on some of the care generally provided by physicians, the researchers said.

Mireia Fābregas, MD, of the Institut Catalā de la Salut, in Barcelona, and her colleagues randomized 1,461 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, with 142 general practitioners and 155 nurses participating. 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% of the cases. The health problem that nurses solved with greatest ease was burns, followed by injuries and acute diarrhea. 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,” Fābregas said.

Patients who saw nurses were as 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% of patients in each group expressed indifference.

The study abstract is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jan.12120/abstract.

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