Introduction: This paper aims to assess whether emergency department physiotherapy practitioner’s (EDPPs), emergency nurse practitioner’s (ENPs) and emergency department doctors investigate, treat and refer patients with closed musculoskeletal injuries differently.
Method: The emergency department records of patients who fitted the departmental criteria for being treated by either ENPs, EDPPs or doctors were selected retrospectively during a 2½ month period between 1 March and 15 May 2005. The investigation, management and referral or discharge of these patients were analysed.
Results: There was no significant difference between the proportion of patients sent for x ray and the type of clinician. (p = 0.17) There was also no significant difference between the proportions of x rays found to have fractures/dislocations with each type of clinician (p = 0.99). All fractures and dislocations were found to have been managed following the written departmental protocols. Consequently, further analysis was for soft tissue injuries only. For soft tissue injuries, senior house officers gave more patients analgesia/ non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs compared with other clinicians (86%, p<0.001). ENPs gave more structural support (bandages, etc) compared with other clinicians (80%, p<0.001). Consultant’s arranged the least formal follow-up although this was not significant (7.6%, p = 0.054) and middle grades offered the most follow-up (17%, p = 0.054) with this again not being significant. However, EDPPs referred significantly more patients for physiotherapy follow-up (9.2%, p = 0.031).
Conclusion: ENPs, EDPPs and doctors of all grades investigated patients with fractures and dislocations similarly and managed them following the written departmental guidelines. However, there were statistically significant differences in the way patients with closed soft tissue injuries were treated and followed-up.
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Competing interests: None declared.
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