Objective: To study the participation of Norwegian regular general practitioners (RGPs) in the out-of-hours system in 2006 and what kind of emergency situations and procedures they experienced in the past 12 months. RGPs’ confidence in performing certain emergency procedures was also mapped.
Methods: In May 2006 all 3804 RGPs taking part in the RGP scheme in Norway were sent a questionnaire dealing with several aspects of the emergency out-of-hours duty. The RGPs who had participated were asked about 14 pre-selected emergency situations, experiences with different pre-selected emergency procedures and their self-confidence with these in the past 12 months.
Results: After two reminders 2913 (78%) answered and 1832 (63%) confirmed they had taken part in emergency out-of-hours services in the past 12 months. 95% of participating RGPs answered questions about emergency situations, 74–78% about emergency procedures. The most common situations were chest pain, psychiatric problems and asthma, experienced by 94%, 92% and 88%, respectively. The number of occasions the doctors had experienced the most frequent emergency procedures (presented as median 25–75% percentiles) were: intravenous medication, three (1–10); oxygen mask, three (1–10); venous access, four (1–10). The doctors reported almost no experiences with other procedures. The doctors reported a high self-confidence in performing the emergency procedures. Male doctors working four or more shifts per month and doctors working in rural areas reported more experiences both in emergency situations and procedures.
Conclusion: Approximately two-thirds of RGPs in Norway took part in the out-of-hours service. A wide variety of emergency cases was experienced by the RGPs. Despite this, experiences with most emergency procedures during a 12-month period are low. Regular training is therefore necessary to maintain good skill levels.
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Competing interests: None.