PURPOSES: The purposes of this study were to report the results of a survey for determining the feasibility and sustainability of independently managed nurse practitioner (NP) practices, to identify the characteristics of consumers who would likely choose an independent NP practice, to assess consumer needs, and to define a target market for competitively positioning NPs. DATA SOURCES: An anonymous electronic survey of 1000 employees (response rate = 21%) at a large nonprofit organization in King County, Washington. This organization employs persons in a wide range of socioeconomic and vocational situations. Descriptive statistics and chi-square analyses were applied to determine associations between demographic characteristics and having used an NP or having the intent to use an independent NP practice. CONCLUSIONS: Most respondents knew about NPs, and the majority had seen an NP for their care. Most were satisfied or very satisfied with NP care. A much larger percentage (90%) than previous studies knew about NPs; 58% had seen an NP for their care, making NPs the most used practitioner alternative to physicians. Evidence suggests that NP users are more likely to be female and younger. Eighty-two percent of NP users were satisfied or very satisfied with the care they had received compared to a 70% satisfaction rate for current providers. Women, relatively younger respondents, those who had seen a physician assistant or NP, and those who considered NPs to provide quality and more personalized care were significantly more likely to indicate that they would choose an independent NP practice in their community. Based on a standard marketing formula, 30% of the sample in this study would be expected to change their health care to such a practice. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: This is the first descriptive study to suggest widespread acceptance of NPs as independent practitioners. Compared to a 1985 study of Seattle residents, consumers are far more likely to know about NPs. Consumer studies such as this one identify the characteristics and interests of consumers and assist NPs in establishing a grounded marketing plan for developing distinctly nursing-based health centers. Recommendations are made for additional studies with improved sampling techniques replicating this work and comparing attitudes in various parts of the country. Implications for NP educators include incorporating market research and other business concepts into NP programs to provide clinicians with the tools they need for successful private practice.
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