Nurse Practitioners Filling the Shortage Gap

Nurse Practitioner with PatientOne of the hardest-hit areas in medicine today is a lack of primary care medical professionals. Between healthcare reform and the increasing number of older Americans retiring, there are not enough healthcare providers to fill these needs in the field of medicine today. This, coupled with statistics that show students entering into general medicine in medical school are on the decline, show that general practice and primary care are two of the most needed, yet hardest-hit areas of medicine.

However, across the U.S., the support and encouragement of other medical professionals into the primary care role has begun to ease the shortage experienced. Nurse practitioners are increasingly called upon to provide the general medical services to patients in hospitals, medical offices, clinics and treatment centers. These highly-trained nurses are not only managing the role formerly reserved for doctors, only, but are giving patients the best of both worlds through top-quality medical care and the skills of a well-educated nurse. Many states, in fact, are allowing nurse practitioners to practice medicine without the supervision of a doctor, proving that the level of education and experience needed to obtain the title of nurse practitioner is on par with the skills and education gained through a medical school program.

Nurse practitioners in the primary care role can expect to diagnose illnesses, focus on disease prevention and education, prescribe medication and therapy, order lab tests for patients, and conduct routine check-ups. These nurses can work with patients throughout their lives, and can have certifications in a wide range of nursing specialties, as well.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that an autonomous nurse practitioner not only provided a high level of medical care to patients, but also that those patients had the same medical outcomes as those treated by doctors and physicians. This study and many others are indicative of the training and education obtained by a nurse practitioner, an advanced practice registered nurse that has a minimum Master of Science in Nursing degree, but can also hold a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

Nurse practitioners are becoming a smart solution to the gap in primary medical care throughout the country. As this shortage continues to increase due to public policy, an aging population and lack of new doctors to fill primary care roles, nurse practitioners are taking on the general care and wellbeing of patients everywhere, and making a difference in the lives of everyone.

by Linda Bright

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