Open Access Open Badges Research article

Family physicians' effort to stay in charge of the medical treatment when patients have home care by district nurses. A grounded theory study

Sonja Modin*, Lena Törnkvist, Anna-Karin Furhoff and Ingrid Hylander

Author Affiliations

Department of Neurobiology, Care Science and Society, Centre for Family and Community Medicine (CeFAM), Karolinska Institutet, Alfred Nobels allé 12, S-14284 Huddinge, Sweden

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BMC Family Practice 2009, 10:45  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-45

Published: 22 June 2009



District nurses (DNs) provide home care for old persons with a mixture of chronic diseases, symptoms and reduced functional ability. Family physicians (FPs) have been criticised for their lack of involvement in this care. The aim of this study was to obtain increased knowledge concerning the FP's experience of providing medical treatment for patients with home care provided by DNs by developing a theoretical model that elucidates how FPs handle the problems they encounter regarding the individual patients and their conditions.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 Swedish FPs concerning one of their registered patients with home care by a DN, and the treatment of this patient. Grounded theory methodology (GTM) was used in the analyses.


The core category was the effort to stay in charge of the medical treatment. This involved three types of problems: gaining sufficient insight, making adequate decisions, and maintaining appropriate medical treatment. For three categories of patients, the FPs had problems staying in charge. Patients with reduced functional ability had problems providing information and maintaining treatment. Patients who were "fixed in their ways" did not provide information and did not comply with recommendations, and for patients with complex conditions, making adequate decisions could be problematic. To overcome the problems, four different strategies were used: relying on information from others, supporting close observation and follow-up by others, being constantly ready to change the goal of the treatment, and relying on others to provide treatment.


The patients in this study differed from most other patients seen at the healthcare centre as the consultation with the patient could not provide the usual foundation for decisions concerning medical treatment. Information from and collaboration with the DN and other home care providers was essential for the FP's effort to stay in charge of the medical treatment. The complexity of the situation made it problematic for the FP to make adequate decisions about the goal of the medical treatment. The goal of the treatment had to be constantly evaluated based on information from the DN and other care providers, and thus this information was absolutely crucial.