Doctors and nurses appear to work harmoniously together but the traditional role of the doctor as the dominant professional means nurses face both structural and professional inequalities. The nursing profession is denied opportunities to contribute to patient care and that hinders the development of equal and collaborative working relationships. Evidence suggests when nurses and doctors work as equal partners, patients have better health outcomes. If you pay a visit to your local doctor, there’s a good chance you’ll spend some time with a nurse.
Nurses in general practice provide specialist health services, education and advocacy. For patients with long-term health complaints, having a nurse involved in care can improve health outcomes and have increased patient participation in continuing care and encouraged lifestyle changes. The general practitioner has traditionally been the sole custodian of care but as the number of nurses in general practice increases, it’s likely that this traditional role will be challenged.
Nurses who enter the workforce today are prepared for clinical independence, critical thinking, and professionalism. No longer do they view themselves as doctors'“handmaidens”. Nor are nurses substitute doctors in general practice – they meet the needs of patients by approaching problems in a different way. They seek to understand how a person is experiencing both their health and their illness so the nurse acts as an advocate for the patient. Collaborative partnerships between nurses and doctors in general practice will result in comprehensive primary health care – the beneficiaries will be patients and the community.