Evaluating the clinical effectiveness of neonatal nurse practitioners: an exploratory study

Leslie Woods
Journal of Clinical Nursing 2006, 15 (1): 35-44

AIM AND OBJECTIVES: The aim of the investigation was to establish if there was any preliminary evidence to indicate if the quality of care and clinical outcomes for premature birth babies are affected by the type of practitioner (i.e. nurse practitioner vs. medical practitioner) responsible for the initial assessment, treatment and management of neonates during the first 6-12 hours following admission to a neonatal intensive care unit.

BACKGROUND: The United Kingdom (UK) has seen a proliferation in the number of nurse practitioners in the past decade. While there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that nurse practitioners in primary care settings are able to provide a high quality and effective level of clinical service comparable with many of their medical counterparts, there has been relatively little evaluation of the nurse practitioner role in acute or high dependency hospital settings.

DESIGN AND METHODS: The study design used a mixed method approach combining a retrospective examination and quality assessment of nursing and medical records. A random sample of 61 sets of medical records, relating specifically to the initial management and treatment of neonates were criterion assessed by an experienced consultant neonatologist and a variety of patient outcome data collated and analysed.

RESULTS: The analysis of the patient outcome data and quality assessment of nursing and medical records revealed that there was no statistical difference in the standard and quality of care provided between nurse practitioners and medical staff in the vast majority of areas evaluated. However, trends in the data suggest that Advanced Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (ANNPs) did not perform as well as their medical counterparts in terms of the overall completeness or comprehensiveness of the standard care provided in a number of areas.

CONCLUSION: Neonatal nurse practitioners provide an alternative model of service delivery in the initial admission and management of premature birth babies. While the results of the study suggest that ANNPs do not perform as well as medical staff, in the majority of cases, they still performed to an acceptable standard. Nonetheless, some deficits in the standard of care provided by both groups of practitioners were identified which in turn have implications for ongoing training and skills development. Relevance to clinical practice. The findings suggest that ANNPs are capable of taking on an advanced role in the assessment and management of neonates.

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