In-house audit demonstrated that 49% (173/352) of patients attending routine HIV outpatient care are asymptomatic and have needs that could potentially be met by other health care professionals.
We therefore evaluated the potential development and acceptability of nurse practitioner roles in contributing to HIV outpatient care.
Data were collected through 26 consultation observations, 25 patient interviews, 2 patient focus groups, 22 provider interviews and 8 provider focus groups.
Service users were key members of the evaluation team. With increasing HIV incidence and the change in focus of doctor-patient consultations from acute to chronic disease management, there are concerns about the sustainability of easily available routine HIV outpatient appointments using the same model of care that has prevailed over the past 20 years.
Nurse practitioner models of care were considered acceptable for asymptomatic patients, including those who do not have complex issues related to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
Key considerations for the role include training, supervision, referral pathways, and a clear understanding of the limitations of nursing practice.
There is an emphasis on the need to consider ‘new ways of working’ throughout the service, rather than merely substituting or transferring clinical roles between professionals.
Funding pending, nurse practitioner roles are planned for implementation in late 2004.
Evaluation will determine impact on service utilization, health and economic outcomes.