Primary Health Care Research & Development


Primary healthcare nurses’ experiences of physical activity referrals: an interview study

Doris M. Bohmana1, Linda Mattssona2 and Gunilla Borglina3 c1

a1 Senior Lecturer, Department of Health, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Health Science, Blekinge, Sweden

a2 Master of Science in Nursing, Primary Health Care RN, Karlshamns Primary Care Trust, Blekinge, Sweden

a3 Reader in Nursing, Department of Care Science, Faculty of Health and Society, Malmö University, Malmö, Sweden


Aim The aim of this study is to illuminate primary health care (PHC) nurses’ experiences of physical activity referrals (PARs).

Background Despite extensive knowledge about the substantial health effects physical activities can produce, fewer and fewer people in our modern society regularly engage in physical activity. Within health care and, particularly, within the PHC arena, nurses meet people on a daily basis who need help to engage in a healthier lifestyle. The possibility of issuing written prescriptions for physical activities, often referred to as PARs, has been introduced as a tool to support such lifestyles. However, even though PHC nurses can prescribe physical activities, studies investigating their experience in this type of nursing intervention are rare.

Methods For this study, 12 semi-structured interviews were conducted with PHC nurses, and the transcribed texts were analysed using a qualitative content analysis.

Findings Two categories – PARs, an important nursing intervention, and PARs, the necessity of organisational support – reflected the nurses’ experiences in using PARs.

Conclusion Our findings suggest that viewing the PAR as a complex intervention, with all that this entails, might be one approach to increasing the number of PARs being issued. Simpler systems, more time and the potential for testing the effectiveness of follow-ups could be possible ways of achieving this.

(Received February 02 2014)

(Revised June 16 2014)

(Accepted July 02 2014)

(Online publication July 30 2014)

Key words

  • content analysis;
  • interviews;
  • nurse;
  • nursing interventions;
  • qualitative research


c1 Correspondence to: Gunilla Borglin, Reader in Nursing, Faculty of Health and Society, Department of Care Science, Malmö University, Malmö, SE-205 06, Sweden. Email: