Nurse practitioner consultations in primary health care: patient, carer, and nurse practitioner qualitative interpretations of communication processes


To advance understanding of the discrete nature of the communication processes and social interactions occurring in nurse practitioner consultations.


Preceding qualitative investigations of nurse practitioner consultations have, when conducting interviews with participants, often exclusively sampled either nurse practitioners or patients. Furthermore, previous qualitative studies of the nature of nurse practitioner consultations have not typically also sampled carers attending with patients for nurse practitioner consultations. Accordingly this study was developed, in part, to address this exclusivity of sampling in qualitative research of nurse practitioner consultations by developing an inclusive sample of patient, carer and nurse practitioner participants of nurse practitioner consultations, so as to conjointly develop an understanding of the multiple perceptions of those participants of communication processes occurring in nurse practitioner consultations.


Qualitative component of a larger mixed methods case study of communication processes and social interactions in nurse practitioner consultations, utilising individual semi-structured interviews with the patient (n = 9), carer (n = 2) and nurse practitioner (n = 3) participants of video-recorded consultations derived from a nurse practitioner-led general practice clinic. Interview transcripts were initially analysed via an emergent thematic analysis, followed up by computer-assisted qualitative data analysis with NVivo 9.


The participants’ perceptions of nurse practitioner consultation communication processes and social interactions were represented through six themes: Consulting style of nurse practitioners; Nurse practitioner – GP comparisons; Lifeworld content or lifeworld style; Nurse practitioner role ambiguity; Creating the impression of time and Expectations for safety netting. The findings identify a need for policy makers to address a perceived ambiguity of the nature of the nurse practitioner role amongst patients and carers. The benefits of nurse practitioners using personable, everyday lifeworld styles of communication for optimising interactions, sharing clinical reasoning and conveying a sense of having time for patients and carers in consultations are also identified.

Key words: advanced clinical practice, consultations, health communication, nurse practitioners, qualitative research, social interactions

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