Aim and objectives: To assess patients' views on the care provided by nurse practitioners compared with that provided by general practitioners and to determine factors influencing these views.
Background: Many countries have sought to shift aspects of primary care provision from doctors to nurses. It is unclear how patients view these skill mix changes.
Design: Cross-sectional survey.
Method: Patients (n = 235) who received care from both nurse and doctor were sent a self-administered questionnaire. The main outcome measures were patient preferences, satisfaction with the nurses and doctors and factors influencing patients' preference and satisfaction.
Results: Patients preferred the doctor for medical aspects of care, whereas for educational and routine aspects of care half of the patients preferred the nurse or had no preference for either the nurse or doctor. Patients were generally very satisfied with both nurse and doctor. Patients were significantly more satisfied with the nurse for those aspects of care related to the support provided to patients and families and to the time made available to patients. However, variations in preference and satisfaction were mostly attributable to variation in individual patient characteristics, not doctor, nurse or practice characteristics.
Conclusion: Patient preference for nurse or doctor and patient satisfaction both vary with the type of care required and reflect usual work demarcations between nurses and doctors. In general, patients are very satisfied with the care they receive.
Relevance to clinical practice: In many countries, different aspects of primary care provision have shifted from doctors to nurses. Our study suggests that these skill mix changes meet the needs of patients and that patients are very satisfied with the care they receive. However, to implement skill mix change in general practice it is important to consider usual work demarcations between nurses and doctors.