This is a sponsored post. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.
The Affordable Care Act provides primary care access to millions of Americans who formerly could not afford a primary care doctor. Now, however, there is a shortage of general practitioners to meet the needs of this new flood of patients.
According to the federal government, there are 6,100 areas of the United States that have more than 3,500 people per primary care doctor. Also, medical students are increasingly reluctant to choose the path to general practice, so the number of general practitioners is declining as the number of patients is increasing. Federal and state governments are now looking to nurse practitioners to fill the gap.
General Practitioners vs. Nurse Practitioners
The National Governor’s Association examined and reported on several studies that show nurse practitioners give at least equal quality of care when compared to physicians. From the patient’s point of view, seeing a nurse practitioner can be more satisfactory because the NPs are usually able to give more time to the patient. Extensive comparisons of patients seen by MDs to patients seen exclusively by NPs show that both sets of patients have similar levels of health and mortality rates, and the patients of the NPs actually had better overall lipid levels.
New-found Independence for Nurse Practitioners
The role of the nurse practitioner is moving in a new direction. 19 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws granting nurse practitioners the ability to practice independently, that is, without a supervising physician. 19 other states have expanded the nurse practitioner's powers to treat and prescribe semi-independently. They would still be required to partner with a physician for part of patient care, such as prescribing strong painkillers.
The Financial Implications
With a shortage of doctors and a new independence for nurse practitioners, the federal government is eager to increase the number of NPs. They have increased funding for grants and fellowships for postgraduate nursing students. Most who work towards postgraduate nursing degrees have already started working as RNs to fund the remainder of their schooling. These federal grants allow students working towards their nurse practitioner degree to attend full-time, bringing them out into the market more quickly.
Some people hope an increased use of NPs will decrease health-care costs, but NPs are currently fighting to receive equal pay for equal work. That is, if they provide the same services as a general practitioner, they should be paid the same.