There’s a frightening scenario that looms ahead in the near future, one where there are not enough primary care physicians to provide care for those who need it. According to the American Association of Family Physicians, there will be 40,000 less primary care doctors less than necessary in ten years’ time. This is because there are not enough medical students choosing to enter primary care when other more lucrative specialties beckon, at least not enough to keep pace with the number of primary care providers who are retiring from active practice or leaving the field for other reasons.
The jury is still out on whether advanced practice nurses (including DNPs and NPs) can efficiently fill this ever-widening gap in primary care, but with the US Department of Health and Human Services setting aside as much as $15 million to set up new clinics that will be completely run and managed by nurse practitioners, perhaps the future will see APNs taking a more active role in providing primary care to the citizens of our country.
There are many advantages to this decision to allow APNs more autonomy in the way they practice medicine:· They are known to spend more time with patients, and they are already used to taking down patient history and providing follow up care. Patients feel more comfortable and satisfied when they perceive that their care provider is spending more time with them.
· Reimbursements for nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses in primary care is much less than that for primary care physicians, so it’s a win-win situation all round because NPs and DNPs are more in demand, physicians are free to carry on with other specialized tasks, patients spend less on healthcare, and the overall cost of healthcare comes down over a period of time.
· With more people dedicated to providing primary care, diseases and illness come down with preventive care, chronic diseases become easier to manage, and general wellbeing and health improve with more people becoming aware of the importance of a good diet and regular exercise after spending quality time with their primary healthcare provider.
However, there is resistance to the idea of ANPs being allowed to run their own primary care show as opposed to being supervised by doctors – physicians insist that it’s not a case of protecting their turf but one of safety and patient concern; with physicians spending more than 150,000 hours of practice before they set out on their own and ANPs getting only 1500 hours of training, the difference is stark, according to the detractors of this idea.
But with over 24 states allowing NPs to set up their own clinics and practice without the supervision of a doctor, it seems that the future of primary care belongs to ANPs. And with the Institute of Medicine agreeing that to meet the increased demand for primary care, limits on nurses’ scope of practice should be removed; it’s a good time to consider becoming an ANP.
This guest post is contributed by Paula Dierkins, who writes on the topic of Online PhD Degree . Paula can be reached at her email id: paula.dierkins@]gmail[.]com