Even though many advancements have been made in terms of the healthcare system within the United States, even today, patients still face several concerns – especially when it comes to acquiring adequate access to physicians who are able to offer primary care services. With this in mind, there is an urgency for implementing the right strategies to ensure the primary care needs of patients within the country can be met – especially in rural areas, where there is often a lack of physicians and appropriate care services to provide diagnostic and treatment for patients with general ailments.
The number of nurse practitioners offering their services to patients in the United States has significantly grown over the last few years. These professionals are able to provide a solution to the current lack of physicians able to provide patients with primary care services, but there are still some state-related laws and challenges faced by nurse practitioners within the country. In this post, we examine the role of nurse practitioners in providing primary care services to patients and consider how the current challenges being faced by these professionals can be overcome.
What Exactly Is A Nurse Practitioner?
The role of nurse practitioner was first established in 1965, and since then, there has been a steady increase in the number of individuals gaining these qualifications within the United States, as well as other regions of the world. A Nurse practitioner is essentially a registered nurse that holds a minimum of a master’s degree. These professionals are fully qualified to provide diagnostic services, as well as treatment, for a range of different medical conditions – much like the service expected from the primary care system.
Nurse practitioners are governed by a specific consensus model known as the APRN, as specified by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The APRN Consensus is a set of outlines that ensure each registered nurse practitioner has appropriate accredited education and that they are fully licensed before they are able to offer their services to patients.
Some nurse practitioners offer general primary care services, where patients can come for a variety of different ailments. Other nurse practitioners, however, tend to focus on a specific specialty. For example, a nurse practitioner may only provide services related to women’s health, or perhaps adult-gerontological services. Some nurse practitioners specifically focus on pediatric care, while others may specialize in oncology, cardiovascular diseases, or perhaps even dermatology.
Nurse Practitioners in The United States
The number of nurse practitioners who are fully licensed and providing their services to patients in the United States has been increasing rapidly over the last couple of years. In a 2007 NP report, there were about 120,000 registered nurse practitioners in the country. By March 2018, this number had increased to 248,000. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, as of January 2019, there are now over 270,000 registered and licensed nurse practitioners in the United States.
The Current Lack in Primary Service Providers
A 2018 study, published by the Association of American Medical Colleges, have found that the lack of primary care services, as well as specialty care services, within the United States, is currently facing a significant challenge. There is a lack of physicians in the country, providing these services to patients.
The study estimates that within just a decade, the United States may face a shortage of about 120,000 physicians. This, in turn, would have a drastic impact on the provision of health care services to patients throughout the entire country. At the moment, recent statistics, collected between the years 2015 up to 2017, shows that the country already suffers a shortage of about 42,600 physicians.
The President and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges classify this as a threat to the well-being of the US population. Researchers also explain that the population is both growing and aging, and this is what causes a significant increase in the demand for primary care medical services. By 2030, the number of individuals in the country who are over 65 years of age will be double what it is now -, and this perfectly correlates to the current estimates that have been made regarding the shortage of physicians within the next decade.
Where Nurse Practitioners Fits into The Bigger Picture
With a lack of physicians providing patients access to primary care services, it is important that the country starts to look at the role of nurse practitioners in the healthcare system. Nurse practitioners are fully trained and qualified to provide patients with a range of different health care services, from the diagnosis of heart-related ailments to the treatment of common illnesses that may become more serious when left untreated.
At the moment, there are only 22 states within the US, where nurse practitioners are offered full practice authority. In other states, several limitations are currently placed on what nurse practitioners are able to do and the specific range of health care services they are allowed to offer a patient. The states where nurse practitioners are currently allowed to practice at full authority include Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and 12 additional ones.
Nurse practitioners are on the rise in the United States, which is a beneficial factor when taking a look at the gap there is in providing primary care services to patients in the country. Even though some challenges are still faced by nurse practitioners, it is important to understand that the quality of care offered by these professionals is on the same level in most cases compared to standard primary care services. At the moment, challenges are keeping a large segment of nurse practitioners from filling the gap related to the lack of primary care services within the United States. For more facts about nurse practitioners, click here.