In the United States, people over the age of 65 years will account for 20% of the population by 2030, and these elders are more likely to have chronic comorbid complex health problems. Sixty-three percent use complementary health approaches (CHAs) but less than half disclose their use to their health care providers. Nurse practitioners (NPs) are the fastest growing population of primary care health providers.
This study identifies to what degree NPs with specialized training in geriatrics understand CHAs, use them themselves, encourage their patients to access them, and engage in CHA clinical dialogue.
Cross-sectional online survey collecting quantitative and narrative data; US NPs with specialized training in geriatrics (n = 170, mean age 52 years, SD: 9.0, range: 29–73).
Although NPs are knowledgeable about some CHA and believe they are beneficial for older adults to use, they want more education to help understand the effects of a variety of CHA, be more aware of possible treatment interactions, and to integrate CHA into the current health care system. Patient factors (impaired cognitive function, acute health problems, and not open to CHA), provider factors (inadequate CHA knowledge, limited referral paths and resources), and system factors (limited accessibility and availability of CHA in in-patient setting, CHA not covered by insurance, and limited clinical time) disrupt NPs from assessing and discussing CHA with their patients.
Implications for practice:
There is a need to develop and implement NP practice guidelines for CHA clinical management for older adults and provide educational opportunities to incorporate CHA into clinical practice.