Perceptions of physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists about the role of acute care nurse practitioners

Leslie A Hoffman, Mary Beth Happ, Carmella Scharfenberg, Dana DiVirgilio-Thomas, Frederick J Tasota
American Journal of Critical Care: An Official Publication, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses 2004, 13 (6): 480-8

BACKGROUND: Information about the contributions of acute care nurse practitioners to medical management teams in critical care settings is limited.

OBJECTIVE: To examine contributions of acute care nurse practitioners to medical management of critically ill patients from the perspectives of 3 disciplines: medicine, respiratory care, and nursing.

METHODS: Attending physicians, respiratory therapists, and nurses in 2 intensive care units were asked to list 3 advantages and 3 disadvantages of collaborative care provided by acute care nurse practitioners. Qualitative methods (coding/constant comparative analysis) were used to identify common themes and subthemes. Overall response rate was 35% (from 69% for attending physicians to 26% for nurses).

RESULTS: Responses were grouped into 4 main themes: accessibility, competence/knowledge, care coordination/communication, and system issues. Acute care nurse practitioners were valued for their accessibility, expertise in routine daily management of patients, and ability to meet patient/family needs, especially for "long-stay" patients. Also, they were respected for their commitment to providing quality care and for their communication skills, exemplified through teaching of nursing staff, patient/family involvement, and fluency in weaning protocols. Physicians valued acute care nurse practitioners' continuity of care, patient/family focus, and commitment. Nurses valued their accessibility, commitment, and patient/family focus. Respiratory therapists valued their accessibility, commitment, and consistency in implementing weaning protocols.

CONCLUSION: Responses reflected unique advantages of acute care nurse practitioners as members of medical management teams in critical care settings. Despite perceptions of the acute care nurse practitioner's role as medically oriented, the themes reflect a clear nursing focus.

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