Family physician/nurse practitioner: stories of collaboration

J Adv Nurs. 2006 Feb;53(4):381-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2006.03734.x.


Aims: This paper presents the experiences of nurse practitioners and family physicians working in collaborative practice at four Canadian rural primary care agencies. It focuses on the qualitative segment of a larger study examining the impact of an educational intervention on interprofessional practice.

Background: Growing awareness of the importance of health promotion and disease prevention, the increased complexity of community-based care, and the need to use scarce human healthcare resources, especially family physicians, far more efficiently and effectively, have resulted in increased emphasis on primary healthcare renewal in Canada. Key to primary healthcare renewal is care delivery through interdisciplinary teams that include nurse practitioners.

Methods: Narrative analysis, a form of interpretive analysis that respects the integrity of the stories told by participants, was chosen as the strategy to examine the narrative data gathered in two sets of interviews with the nurse practitioners and family physicians. The study was undertaken during 2000.

Results: Thirteen family physicians and five nurse practitioners with diverse educational backgrounds and varied experience with collaboration participated in the qualitative component of the study. A number of issues related to working in a shared practice were identified in nurse practitioner and family physician interviews across the research sites. The themes identified in participants' stories included issues related to the scope of practice, emphasizing the importance of role clarity and trust, the ideological difference regarding disease prevention and health promotion, differences in perceptions about the operation of collaborative practice, and the understanding that collaborative relationships evolve.

Conclusions: The placement of nurse practitioners and family physicians in a common clinical practice without some form of orientation process does not produce collaborative practice. Educational strategies related to role expectations are necessary to facilitate the development of care delivery partnerships characterized by interdependent practice.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Canada
  • Clinical Competence
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse's Role
  • Patient Care Team
  • Physician-Nurse Relations*
  • Preventive Health Services / methods
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Rural Health