Submitted by Jodi Sherve, Nurse Practitioner Student, University of North Dakota
Healthcare today is rapidly changing. It is projected that by the year 2020, that there will be a significant shortage in primary care providers. This is not only as a result of the aging baby boomers, but due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, allowing more Americans access to healthcare services (HRSA, 2016). This issue is further confounded by the fact that more and more physicians are choosing to practice in specialty areas versus practicing in primary care (AANP, 2017). So what is the solution to this multifaceted issue? Nurse practitioners (NPs)!
NPs are well educated in a variety of arenas, including health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, patient education, and the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses, making them the perfect fit to practice not only in primary care, but a variety of other settings as well (American Academy of Family Physicians [AAFP], 2017). Rigorous training is required in order for NPs to obtain certification. This includes six or more years of education at both the academic and clinical level, after which the NP must sit for a national certification exam in order to attest their knowledge proving that he/she meets the practice requirements to practice as a NP (AANP, 2017).
Based on the foundations of the nursing model, NPs evaluate patients, make diagnoses, prescribe medications, and initiate and manage patient treatments. This holistic approach to patient care has been associated many positive outcomes for patients. NPs excel at providing coordinated, comprehensive, and continuous care to patients of all ages, examining the physical, social, and psychological aspects of patient care. (McMenamin, 2014). Research has shown patient outcomes were equivalent among patients who were primarily severed by NPs when compared to those who were primarily seen by a saw a physician. In fact, some studies found that NP-led care was better in regards to patient follow-up, consultation time, overall satisfaction, and provision of screening, assessment, and counseling (Naylor & Kurtzman, 2010).
The benefits to having NPs in primary care is overwhelming. First off, they have been known to spend more time with patient’s, evaluating every aspect of the patient’s healthcare needs. Secondly, NPs are known to collaborate with other professions disciplines in order to ensure the highest quality patient care. Third, they have the ability to refer patients to other professional specialties or physicians in complex cases. NPs are often easier to get appointments with. Finally, NPs are less expensive to see, helping to decrease the cost of healthcare service. It has been further shown that patients who see NPs, have fewer emergency room visits, shorter hospital stays, and lower treatment costs (Jackson, 2010).
The rapidly evolving arena of healthcare has presented many challenges. As our population ages and with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, more and more Americans will seek out primary care services, further contributing to the deficit of primary care providers. NPs have proven time and time again to be significant players in reducing the deficit in primary care services. They have been known to excel in many aspects of primary care, providing a holistic approach to patient care. This has been known to result in improved patient outcomes and satisfaction overall.
American Academy of Family Physicians (2017). Primary care. Retrieved from http://www.afp.org/about/policies/all/primary-care.html.
American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) (2017). Education. Retrieved from https://www.aanp.org/education.
Health Resources & Services Administration (2016). Projecting the supply and demand for primary care practitioners through 2020. Retrieved from https://bhw.hrsa.gov/health-workforce-analysis/primary-care-2020.
Jackson, T. (2010). When a nurse practitioner is better than a doctor. Retrieved from http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/815939/when-a-nurse-practitioner-is-better-than-a-doctor-1
McMenamin, P. (2014). Yes, nurse practitioners are primary care providers. Retrieved from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/820818_2
Naylor, M. D., & Kurtzman, E. T. (2010). The role of nurse practitioners in reinventing primary care. Health Affairs, 29(5), 893-899. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2010.0440 Stewart, J.G. & Denisco, S.M. (2015). Role Development for the Nurse Practitioner. Philadelphia, PA: Jones and Bartlett.