Nurses provided care comparable in quality to general practitioners for a number of low complexity primary care health problems, results from a Spanish study indicate.

The findings echo those from previous studies and support the role of nurses taking on some of the care generally provided by primary care physicians, Mireia Fàbregas, MD, of the Institut Català de la Salut, in Barcelona, and colleagues reported in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

They randomly assigned 1,461 adult patients who requested same-day appointments to see either nurses trained to respond to problems with low complexity (n=753) or general practitioners (n=708) at 38 general practices in Catalonia, Spain. A total of 155 nurses and 142 general practitioners participated.

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At two-week follow-up, the reseachers measured how well patients’ symptoms resolved and patient satisfaction.

Nurses successfully resolved 86.3% of the cases, the researchers found. Burns, injuries and acute diarrhea were among the most easily treated, whereas less success was reported for problems including low back pain, acute mild upper respiratory symptoms and urinary discomfort.

“This lower resolution could be explained by the fact that these problems require more complex physical examinations that are not usual in a nurse’s daily work,” the researchers wrote.

Overall, patients who saw nurses reported being as satisfied with their visit as those who saw doctors. More than 40% of patients in each group expressed indifference in terms of preference for doctor or nurse provided care if they needed to be treated for similar health problem again.


  1. Iglesias B et al. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2013; doi: 10.1111/jan.12120.