Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association

Clients’ understanding of the role of nurse practitioners

Jane Allnutt A , Nissa Allnutt A , Rose McMaster A , Jane O’Connell A , Sandy Middleton A F , Sharon Hillege B , Phillip R. Della C , Glenn E. Gardner D and Anne Gardner E
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Nursing (NSW and ACT), Australian Catholic University, PO Box 958, North Sydney, NSW 2059, Australia.

B School of Nursing & Midwifery College of Health and Science, The University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith South DC, NSW 1797, Australia.

C School of Nursing and Midwifery, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia.

D School of Nursing, Queensland University of Technology and Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane, QLD 4001, Australia.

E School of Nursing, Midwifery and Nutrition, James Cook University, PO Box 670, Townsville, QLD 4814, Australia.

F Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Health Review 34(1) 59-65
Submitted: 5 September 2008  Accepted: 2 March 2009   Published: 25 March 2010


Nurse practitioners (NPs) have an emerging role in the Australian health care system. However, there remains a dearth of data about public understanding of the NP role. The aim of this study was to evaluate clients’ understanding of the role of the NP and their satisfaction with education received, quality of care and NP knowledge and skill. All authorised NPs working in a designated NP position in Western Australia and those working in three area health services in New South Wales were invited to recruit five consecutive clients to complete the self-administered survey.

Thirty-two NPs (NP response rate 93%) recruited 129 clients (client response rate 90%). Two-thirds of clients (63%) were aware they were consulting an NP. The majority rated the following NP-related outcomes as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’: education provided (89%); quality of care (95%); and knowledge and skill (93%). Less than half reported an understanding that NPs could prescribe medications (40.5%) or interpret X-rays (33.6%). Clients of NPs practising in a rural or remote setting were more likely than those in an urban setting to have previously consulted an NP (P = 0.005), and where applicable would to prefer to see an NP rather than a doctor (P = 0.022). Successful implementation and expansion of the NP role requires NP visibility in the community. Despite high levels of satisfaction, more awareness of the scope of the NP role is required.

What is known about the topic? The role of nurse practitioners (NPs) in Australian health care is diverse and evolving. There is a dearth of research focusing on NPs, particularly looking at the client perception of their role.

What does this paper add? This study investigates the client’s perception of the role of nurse practitioners and levels of confidence and satisfaction through the use of a self-administered questionnaire.

What are the implications for practitioners? The results suggest that clients have a moderate awareness of the nurse practitioner role. Despite this, clients appear to have high levels of confidence and satisfaction after consultations with nurse practitioners. These results suggest that greater community awareness of the role may help maximise their positive contribution to health care in Australia.


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