Abstract

Registered nurses (RNs) in Ontario have been asked to work collaboratively with family physicians (FPs) and other healthcare professionals in the family practice setting to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery (OFPN 2005). Yet, little is known about the optimal utilization of the RN's role in family practice. This study builds on recent conversations regarding utilization of the nursing workforce (Oelke et al. 2008) and the nursing role (White et al. 2008) in the acute care setting by presenting perceptions of the role of the RN in an urban academic family practice setting. Interviews were conducted with 23 healthcare professionals of varying disciplines across three interprofessional academic family practice units in a Canadian city. Interviewees were asked about their perception of the RN's role as it relates to interprofessional collaboration (IPC). Our findings suggest that ambiguity surrounds the RN's role in family practice in general and in IPC in particular. Also, an FP's level of trust in an RN was found to be a central theme and an important variable in determining FP-RN collaboration, with higher levels of RN trustworthiness associated with higher levels of FP-RN collaboration. Optimal utilization of the family practice RN requires leadership in clarifying the RN's role in IPC, and why and how trust among IPC members is cultivated and nurtured.