The role of the nurse in screening asymptomatic male and female patients in a sexual health clinic

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We allocated 278 patients, who said they were asymptomatic and agreed to be randomized to a nurse or doctor clinic, to appointments using a random number system. In all, 35 patients did not attend and 16 were excluded because they did not meet the entry criteria. We used a screening protocol which excluded microscopy from the immediate assessment of patients. The outcome measures were completeness of documentation, proportion of patients accepting HIV tests, infections detected and patient satisfaction. Overall, 3% of items were not completed by doctors and 6% by nurses. HIV tests were carried out on 65% of patients who saw a doctor and 52% who saw a nurse. Thirteen infections were detected by doctors and 27 by nurses. No new cases of gonorrhoea, syphilis or HIV infection were identified. Eighty-eight patients completed a questionnaire after their attendance. Almost all patients were very satisfied with the service and most were prepared to see a nurse on a subsequent visit. We concluded that there are few differences between the performance of doctors and nurses in routine screening of asymptomatic patients.

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