Background: While MD adherence to U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines has been found to be uneven, nurse practitioners (NPs) and their adherence to guidelines have not been closely examined.
Methods: A retrospective chart review of new patients (n = 1339) in an NP primary health care center, four MD primary health care centers, and one private NP practice. Screening and counseling were compared for NPs and MDs.
Results: When patient populations, resources, and administrative policies were similar in the NP and MD primary health care centers, NPs were more likely than MDs to perform primary prevention; however, MDs were more likely to document the delivery of secondary prevention screening. Private practice NPs' performance was more congruent with practice guidelines than either NP or MD primary health care center providers. Private practice NPs were more likely to perform screening, assessment, and counseling.
Conclusions: When context, patient population, and productivity requirements were the same, NPs and MDs differed in their use of preventive measures, and not as expected. When NPs are not constrained by productivity requirements, and when their patient population has more resources and higher expectations, NPs perform better than their primary care center counterparts, particularly in secondary prevention and assessment and counseling.