Comparing quality of care in medical specialties between nurse practitioners and physicians

J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2020 May 6;33(3):184-193. doi: 10.1097/JXX.0000000000000394.


Background: The American health care system is facing a growing health care provider shortage in primary and specialty care settings. Research has established that nurse practitioners (NPs) match or exceed their physician colleagues in providing quality care in primary care settings.

Objective: This systematic review aimed to compare the quality of NP versus physician-led care in outpatient specialty care setting for clinical outcomes patient satisfaction.

Data sources: The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses statement guided the literature search (CINAHL, PubMed, and Cochrane Library) and interpretation of findings. Of the 228 articles that met the inclusion/exclusion criteria, 11 were selected for further review.

Conclusions: Studies were conducted from 1995 to 2016 across four countries and spanned 10 distinct medical specialties. As a whole, these studies demonstrated that NPs in specialty settings perform as well as physicians terms of clinical safety and positive patient outcomes. Nurse practitioners matched or exceeded their physician counterparts in patient education and satisfaction.

Implications for practice: Nurse practitioners are a feasible option for addressing specialty care shortages. Further research should investigate whether NPs and physicians are equally prepared to provide equivalent care immediately following their respective postbaccalaureate programs. If not, studies should explore specific training duration and elements NPs require to provide equivalent care.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Medicine*
  • Nurse Practitioners*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physicians*
  • Quality of Health Care