BACKGROUND: Hepatology and gastroenterology services are increasingly utilising the skills and experience of nurse practitioners and nurse specialists to help meet the increasing demand for health care. A new nurse-led assessment clinic has been established in the liver clinic at Geelong Hospital to utilise the expertise of nurses to assess and triage new patients and streamline their pathway through the health care system.
AIM: The aim of this study is to quantitatively assess the first two years of operation of the nurse assessment clinic at Geelong Hospital, and to assess advantages and disadvantages of the nurse-led clinic.
METHODS: Data was extracted retrospectively from clinical records of new patients at the liver clinic. Quarterly one-month periods were recorded over two-years. Patients were categorised according to the path via which they saw a physician, including missed and rescheduled appointments. The number of appointments, the waiting time from referral to appointments and the number of 'did-not-attend' occasions were analysed before and after the institution of the nurse-led assessment clinic. The Mann-Whitney rank sum test of ordinal data was used to generate median wait times.
RESULTS: There was shown to be a statistically significant longer waiting time for physician appointment if seen by the nurse first. The difference in waiting time was 10 days. However, there was also a reduction in the number of missed appointments at the subsequent physician clinic. Other advantages have also been identified including effective triage of patients, and organisation of appropriate investigations from the initial nurse assessment.
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