Nurse practitioners' and physicians' care activities and clinical outcomes with an inpatient geriatric population

J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2004 Aug;16(8):343-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2004.tb00457.x.


Objective: Less is known about nurse practitioners' (NPs') effectiveness in acute care than about their effectiveness in outpatient settings. This study investigated care activities and clinical outcomes for hospitalized geriatric patients treated by NPs compared with those treated by intern and resident physicians.

Data sources: A descriptive comparative research design involved random selection of 100 inpatient geriatric patients and a convenience sample of 17 professional providers who staffed three hospital units. A 1-month study period produced retrospective and prospective data for analysis.

Conclusions: Self-reports concerning 10 primary activity categories indicated that NPs spent a higher percentage of time doing progress notes and care planning than did physicians (28% versus 15%, p = .011) and that physicians spent more time on literature reviews (5% versus 1%, p = .008). When prioritizing care activities, NPs ranked advance directive discussion higher than did physicians (2nd versus 7th, p = .036), a difference confirmed by medical record documentation. Physicians were more attentive to functional status (1st versus 3rd, p = .023), but medical record documentation showed NPs to be more attentive to physical and occupational therapy referrals (p = .001). Analysis of 13 independent organ areas revealed that NPs cared for more musculoskeletal (p = .036) and psychiatric (p = .005) problems. Physicians cared for more cardiac patients (p = .001). NPs' patients were older (p = .022) and sicker at admission (p < .001) and discharge (p < .001). Charges per length of stay were lower (p < .001) for the physician provider group, and patients in that group had shorter stays (p < .001). Readmission and mortality rates were similar.

Implications for practice: NPs provide effective care to hospitalized geriatric patients, particularly to those who are older and sicker.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Geriatric Nursing / standards
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / statistics & numerical data
  • Internship and Residency / standards
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Midwestern United States
  • Nurse Practitioners / standards*
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / standards*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sampling Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors