Aim. This paper reports a study to determine the attitudes of nurses, doctors and general medical practitioners towards the development of an advanced nurse practitioner service within an emergency department.
Background. The role of advanced nurse practitioner in emergency care has emerged in a number of countries, and has brought with it confusion about titles, role boundaries, clinical accountability and educational requirements. Initially, the role resulted from a need for healthcare professionals to provide a service to the increased numbers of patients presenting to hospital with less urgent problems. Since then, the service has evolved to one where nurse practitioners provide high-quality and cost-effective care to persons who seek help for non-urgent, urgent or emergent conditions in a variety of emergency care settings. However, little research could be identified on the attitudes of relevant nursing and medical staff towards the development of this role.
Methods. A questionnaire survey was carried out, and a 29-item Likert rating scale was developed to measure attitudes. Along with some demographic variables, two open-ended questions were added to allow respondents to elaborate on what they perceived as benefits and difficulties associated with an advanced nurse practitioner service. All general practitioners, emergency nurses and emergency doctors in one health board in the Republic of Ireland were targeted, and 25 emergency nurses, 13 emergency doctors and 69 general practitioners were approached to take part. Data were collected in February 2004.
Findings. An overall response rate of 74·8% was achieved. All respondents were positive towards the development of an advanced nurse practitioner service, with general practitioners being less positive. The principal differences appeared between general practitioners and hospital emergency care staff.
Conclusion. There is a need for a multidisciplinary approach to the planning of advanced nurse practitioner services. To achieve multiprofessional acceptance, an accredited and standardized education programme is required, and this must address existing role boundaries.