COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Care activities and outcomes of patients cared for by acute care nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and resident physicians: a comparison

E B Rudy, L J Davidson, B Daly, J M Clochesy, S Sereika, M Baldisseri, M Hravnak, T Ross, C Ryan
American Journal of Critical Care 1998, 7 (4): 267-81
9656041

BACKGROUND: Little information is available on the practice of acute care nurse practitioners and physician assistants in acute care settings.

OBJECTIVES: To compare the care activities performed by acute care nurse practitioners and physician assistants and the outcomes of their patients with the care activities and patients' outcomes of resident physicians.

METHODS: Sixteen acute care nurse practitioners and physician assistants and a matched group of resident physicians were studied during a 14-month period. Data on the subjects' daily activities and on patients' outcomes were collected 4 times.

RESULTS: Compared with the acute care nurse practitioners and physician assistants, residents cared for patients who were older and sicker, cared for more patients, worked more hours, took a more active role in patient rounds, and spent more time in lectures and conferences. The nurse practitioners and physician assistants were more likely than the residents to discuss patients with bedside nurses and to interact with patients' families. They also spent more time in research and administrative activities. Few of the acute care nurse practitioners and physician assistants performed invasive procedures on a regular basis. Outcomes were assessed for 187 patients treated by the acute care nurse practitioners and physician assistants and for 202 patients treated by the resident physicians. Outcomes did not differ markedly for patients treated by either group. The acute care nurse practitioners and physician assistants were more likely than the residents to include patients' social history in the admission notes.

CONCLUSIONS: The tasks and activities performed by acute care nurse practitioners and physician assistants are similar to those performed by resident physicians. However, residents treat patients who are sicker and older than those treated by acute care nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Patients' outcomes are similar for both groups of subjects.

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