oa Curationis - Assessment of activities performed by clinical nurse practitioners and implications for staffing and patient care at primary health care level in South Africa : original research
Background : The shortage of nurses in public healthcare facilities in South Africa is well documented; finding creative solutions to this problem remains a priority.
Objective : This study sought to establish the amount of time that clinical nurse practitioners (CNPs) in one district of the Western Cape spend on clinical services and the implications for staffing and skills mix in order to deliver quality patient care.
Methods : A descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted across 15 purposively selected clinics providing primary health services in 5 sub-districts. The frequency of activities and time CNPs spent on each activity in fixed and mobile clinics were recorded. Time spent on activities and health facility staff profiles were correlated and predictors of the total time spent by CNPs with patients were identified.
Results : The time spent on clinical activities was associated with the number of CNPs in the facilities. CNPs in fixed clinics spent a median time of about 13 minutes with each patient whereas CNPs in mobile clinics spent 3 minutes. Fixed-clinic CNPs also spent more time on their non-core functions than their core functions, more time with patients, and saw fewer patients compared to mobile-clinic CNPs.
Conclusions : The findings give insight into the time CNPs in rural fixed and mobile clinics spend with their patients, and how patient caseload may affect consultation times. Two promising strategies were identified - task shifting and adjustments in health worker deployment - as ways to address staffing and skills mix, which skills mix creates the potential for using healthcare workers fully whilst enhancing the long-term health of these rural communities.
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