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Keywords:

  • emergency nursing;
  • emergency services;
  • health care delivery;
  • nurse practitioner;
  • paediatric nurse practitioner

Aim.  This paper reports on a study investigating the factors which influence parental intent to use the services of a paediatric nurse practitioner in an emergency department.

Background.  Research has shown that nurse practitioners provide quality care to paediatric and adult primary care and non-urgent emergency patients. Although there are studies that assess patient satisfaction with nurse practitioner care, there are few that report on what factors initially influence the public to use these services. No studies have examined the factors that affect parental decision-making to access nurse practitioner care in emergency settings for their children.

Methods.  A questionnaire was completed by 100 parents who visited a tertiary paediatric emergency department for their child's non-urgent emergency care needs. Information captured included demographic variables, role responsibility tasks that parents would be willing to have a nurse practitioner provide, and parents’ perceptions of the characteristics of the nurse practitioner role. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression were used to analyse the demographic data, percentiles were compiled for the role responsibility tasks, and logistic regression was used to analyse parents’ perceptions of the characteristics of the nurse practitioner role. The data were collected in 2002.

Results.  Eighty-three per cent of parents indicated their intention to access nurse practitioner services for a variety of childhood symptoms. Logistic regression revealed that the compatibility of nurse practitioner services with parents’ beliefs and needs was the most statistically significant (P < 0·05) independent variable predicting parental intent to use these services. Demographic variables did not have a statistically significant influence.

Conclusions.  The public does not seem to understand fully the scope of nursing practice, and this is a concern if people are to feel comfortable with expanded roles for nurses. Thus, the public should be given information that not only describes the role of nurse practitioners, but also includes facts about the scope of practice of Registered Nurses as this may be helpful in producing a favourable attitude towards nurse practitioner care.