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Nurse Pract. 1998 Feb;23(2):56-8, 63, 67-8 passim.

Using unannounced standardized patients to assess the HIV preventive practices of family nurse practitioners and family physicians.

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  • 1Department of Community and Family Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA.


Measuring health risk assessment and counseling recommendations can be challenging. In this study, unannounced standardized patients (lay individuals trained to replicate a clinical encounter consistently) were used to evaluate HIV preventive performance of 22 family nurse practitioners (NPs) and family physicians. Standardized patients were trained to present an identical scenario of a heterosexual individual at risk for HIV exposure. Audiotaping via a hidden microphone and recorder was used to validate the reproducibility of clinical encounters and accuracy of standardized patient assessment. Standardized patients were highly accurate in both case portrayal and assessment activities with an indexed Kappa coefficient of 0.82. Determining risk, including condom use, sexual orientation, and number of past sexual partners, was performed less often than experts advise by both physicians and NPs (done between 9% and 63% of encounters). Providing patient education to reduce risk, including educating about abstinence, mutual monogamy, and limiting sexual partners, was also done in only 9% to 36% of encounters. The methodology used was innovative. There is room for improvement in the provider participants' clinical performance of HIV risk assessment, patient education, and counseling. However, the results of this case study cannot be generalized.

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