Purpose: To present original research of a retrospective study of telephone calls by nurse practitioners (NP) to geriatric primary care patients over the period of one year in a Veteran's Administration primary care clinic in the southeast.
Data sources: A convenience sample of the electronic patient progress notes labeled "telephone call" of three full time NPs was collected from May 1, 1998 through April 31, 1999. A total of 1,541 unique telephone calls made by NPs to patients were examined.
Conclusions: Patient telephone calls consume work time, which is often hidden and uncounted when examining time spent with patients. Most calls (62%) were generated by others; the remainder (38%) were initiated by the NPs. The greatest number (42%) of requests related to medication refills.
Implications for practice: Many patients requested to talk to the NP for non-clinical issues; many of the requests could have been handled by other staff. It is as if the patient no longer has the traditional call bell to call the nurse but now has the telephone to call the NP. The personal aspect of the phone call may be what is needed by some of the patients looking for a form of human contact.