Nurse Practitioners Fill Gap in Access to Primary Care

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, July 5th, 2016

Nurse practitioners are a hot topic in the healthcare and legislative fields. State legislators in dozens of states are in the height of legislative session. Many of them are considering the more than 600 bills designed to improve patient access to primary care, an issue that has reached epidemic proportions due to health care provider shortages nationwide.

Nurse Practitioner fills gap to access in primary health careWith the rising numbers of chronic disease and our aging population, the demand for primary health care is exploding. Fortunately, there are more than 205,000 nurse practitioners in the United States who are educated, clinically trained and ready to deliver timely, high-quality, cost-effective care. Yet, many states don’t allow Nurse Practitioners (NPs) to practice to the full scope of their education and clinical training.

As of January 2016, there were 6,359 health professional shortage communities in the United States. In the last 18 months alone, this number has grown by nearly 300, according to the Department of Health and Human Service’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Despite the increasing demand, many states still have outdated state practice laws for NPs to deliver care. On average NPs have more than six years of academic and clinical preparation. They assess patients, order and interpret diagnostic tests, make diagnoses, initiate and manage treatment plans, and prescribe medications. NPs manage about 990 million patient visits per year and have practiced successfully and consistently in primary, acute and specialty settings for over half a century.

Many physician organizations oppose autonomous practice by NPs, arguing that physician supervision is required to deliver quality care.  Yet more than 100 studies over the last 40 years have concluded that NPs’ patient health outcomes are as good or better than other providers in similar health care services.

Currently, more than 40 % of the states have adopted full practice authority (FPA) licensure and practice laws which authorize NPs to deliver care without a regulated relationship with a physician.

To strengthen health care quality for all we need more nurses. To learn now to recruit nurses and retain nurses by implementing tools that care for employees’ minds, bodies and spirits, visit SelfCare for HealthCare. Contact me today to discuss implementing this powerful program at your facility.

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