One way of dealing with the shortage of doctors in nursing homes is to utilize nurse practitioners, or NPs. A new study looked at the effects of placing NPs in one nursing home in Japan. 

Programs utilizing NPs in nursing homes started in 2008 in Japan. These clinicians commonly work in long-term care communities in the United States. 

The study aimed to look at the effectiveness of care led by NPs. Nahoko Harada, a researcher at Okayama University, worked with a team of colleagues to learn more about the impacts of this model. The study was published on Dec. 4 in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners.

“In the US, NPs have expanded their role to provide quality healthcare, especially in regions facing physician shortages. As a researcher educated in NPs in the US, I wanted to find evidence regarding the clinical impact of NPs in Japan and their contribution to the health of the population,” Harada said in a statement.

The team evaluated aspects of care including medical expenses, emergency visits and hospitalizations before an NP program started, and after. One cohort of data was from before the NPs were utilized — October 2019 to September 2020 — and the other was from after NPs were introduced — October 2021 to September 2022.  

Data was derived from 229 residents in a nursing home that is located in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. As a result of placing NPs at the nursing home, researchers saw that emergency visits dropped among residents who needed higher levels of care. People who needed advanced care rose, but emergency departmentment visits decreased. 

“The observed reduction in unnecessary hospital visits tied with NPs’ intervention in managing nonhospitalization requiring conditions, underscores their pivotal role in early diagnosis and continuous patient monitoring,” Harada noted.

“In the midst of the demand to reform the way medical personnel work, we were able to provide evidence regarding the maintenance of the quality of medical care by medical practice nurses. This knowledge can be applied to future health care economic benefits from optimizing medical human resources,” Harada said.