Evaluating Emergency Nurse Practitioner services: a randomized controlled trial


Mark A. Cooper,
Accident and Emergency Departments,
Glasgow Royal Infirmary,
84 Castle Street,
Glasgow G4 0SF,
E-mail: mark.a.cooper@clinmed.gla.ac.uk


Background.  Emergency Nurse Practitioners (ENP) are increasingly managing minor injuries in Accident and Emergency departments across the United Kingdom. This study aimed to develop methods and tools that could be used to measure the quality of ENP-led care. These tools were then tested in a randomized controlled trial.

Methods.  A convenience sample of 199 eligible patients, over 16 years old, and with specific minor injuries was randomized either to ENP-led care ( n  = 99) or Senior House Officer (SHO)-led care ( n  = 100) and were diagnosed, treated, referred or discharged by this lead clinician. Following treatment, patients were asked to complete a patient satisfaction questionnaire related to the consultation. Clinical documentation was assessed using a ‘Documentation Audit Tool’. A follow-up questionnaire was sent to all patients at 1 month. Return visits to the department and missed injuries were monitored.

Results.  Patients were satisfied with the level of care from both ENPs and SHOs. However, they reported that ENPs were easier to talk to ( P  = 0·009); gave them information on accident and illness prevention ( P  = 0·001); and gave them enough information on their injury ( P  = 0·007). Overall they were more satisfied with the treatment provided by ENPs than with that from SHOs ( P  < 0·001). ENPs' clinical documentation was of higher quality than SHOs ( P  < 0·001). No differences were found in recovery times, level of symptoms, time off work or unplanned follow-up between groups. Missed injuries were the same for both groups ( n  = 1 in each group).

Conclusion.  The study was sufficiently large to demonstrate higher levels of patient satisfaction and clinical documentation quality with ENP-led than SHO-led care. A larger study involving 769 patients in each arm would be required to detect a 2% difference in missed injury rates. The methods and tools used in this trial could be used in Accident and Emergency departments to measure the quality of ENP-led care.