Health care professionals, organizations, and policy makers are calling for expansion of the nurse practitioner (NP) workforce in primary care to assure timely access and high-quality care. However, most efforts promoting NP practice have been focused on state level scope of practice regulations, with limited attention to the organizational structures.
We examined NP practice environments in primary care organizations and the extent to which they were associated with NP retention measures.
Data were collected through mail survey of NPs practicing in 163 primary care organizations in Massachusetts in 2012. NP practice environment was measured by the Nurse Practitioner Primary Care Organizational Climate Questionnaire, which has four subscales: Professional Visibility, NP–Administration Relations, NP–Physician Relations, and Independent Practice and Support. Two global items measured job satisfaction and NPs’ intent to leave their job. We aggregated NP level data to organization level to attain measures of practice environments. Multilevel logistic regression models were used.
NPs rated the relationship between NPs and physicians favorably, contrary to the relationship between NPs and administrators. All subscales measuring NP practice environment had similar influence on the outcome variables. With every unit increase in each standardized subscale score, the odds of job satisfaction factors increased about 20% whereas the odds of intention of turnover decreased about 20%. NPs from organizations with higher mean scores on the NP–Administration subscale had higher satisfaction with their jobs (OR = 1.24, 95% CI [1.12, 1.39]) and had lower intent to leave (OR = 0.79, 95% CI [0.70, 0.90]).
NPs were more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and less likely to report intent to leave if their organizations support NP practice, favorable relations with physicians and administration, and clear role visibility. Creating productive practice environments that can retain NPs is a potential strategy for increasing the primary care workforce capacity.