How to build a workforce that leverages the strengths of doctors and ANPs?

Picture a busy GP clinic where every team member, from doctors to Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ANPs), works together to provide top-tier patient care. It’s a scenario in which teamwork elevates the healthcare experience, proving that the sum is indeed greater than its parts.

Harnessing the collaborative strengths of doctors and Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ANPs) can transform patient care. In this article, we’ll explore the advantages of incorporating ANPs into primary care settings, highlight how they can support and improve the work of doctors, and provide insights into effective workforce building practices.

Can ANPs Bridge the Healthcare Gap?

Advanced Nurse Practitioners play a vital role in bridging the gap between doctors and patient care. According to the Royal College of Nursing, ANPs are highly qualified nurses with additional training, allowing them to take on responsibilities akin to those of doctors.

Armed with a master’s level education in clinical practice, ANPs can make autonomous decisions in patient assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, including the ability to prescribe medications.

The Advantages of Hiring ANPs in Primary Care Settings

The value ANPs bring to primary care is immense. Beyond the obvious cost benefits compared to locum GPs, the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) further incentivises employing ANPs in primary care networks. Moreover, employing ANPs allows doctors to channel their focus towards complex cases, enhancing care quality across the board.

Studies even suggest that patient satisfaction with ANPs is comparable to that with GPs, contributing to reduced waiting times and faster treatment.

Navigating the Challenges Together

While ANPs bring valuable skills to the table, it’s crucial to acknowledge that they are not direct substitutes for doctors. Their role complements rather than replaces the intricate, diagnostic-focused work of physicians. When considering integrating ANPs into your team, it’s not just about the cost savings but about creating a balanced, multidisciplinary team that elevates patient care as a whole.

What Are the Best Practices of Building a Mixed Clinical Workforce?

  • Defining Roles Clearly: In the mixed clinical workforce, the boundaries of each role should be agreed between the employer and employee. Both GPs and ANPs should understand the scope and limitations of their respective roles.
  • Effective Teamwork: A 2022 case study of the implementation of ANPs in primary care settings in Scotland found that ‘good relationships between GPs, ANPs and other team members’ was a key facilitator. This may involve some re-education to help GPs understand the ANP role and what it entails. 
  • Master the Art of Triage: Patients should be triaged at their first contact with the primary care team to ensure they access the most appropriate health professional — not simply sent to an ANP first and passed on to a GP if needed.  
  • Public Re-education: Many patients might wonder why they’re seeing an ANP instead of a GP. Proactive communication and education can help set expectations and highlight the value ANPs bring to their care.
  • Ensuring GPs are Available: Remember, ANPs are here to complement, not replace. Keeping GPs available for intricate medical situations ensures that patients always receive the care they need.

Hiring the Right Advanced Nurse Practitioner

When hiring an ANP, it’s essential to consider their experience, practice environments, and specific capabilities. A competency checklist can aid in assessing the suitability of an ANP for your organization’s unique needs (view our competency checklist example in our full guide to the evolving role of ANPs). The goal is not necessarily to find the most experienced ANP but to identify the one best suited to enhance your team’s capabilities and provide optimal patient care.

    Embracing a Collaborative Future in Healthcare

    As healthcare evolves, the partnership between doctors and ANPs becomes increasingly vital. Understanding and leveraging the distinct strengths of each role enable healthcare organizations to offer superior care. The future of healthcare is collaborative, promising a system that responds adeptly to patient needs with resilience and flexibility.

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