The New Role of Nurse Practitioners in Health Care Reform

Written by on October 31, 2014 in Features - No comments

“Change is the only thing which remains constant…”

NurseWEBIn past patients were treated with little, or no, technology. Now the latest equipment and technology, created almost daily, assist in treating prolonged and deadly diseases. Being adaptive has always been essential in the field of medicine.

The same goes for health care reforms, amendments are made to the existing plan and new features are added. With the launch of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), practices aim to provide health care facilities to everyone, including the previously uninsured population.

Health care is not only related to curative care. It involves preventive, primitive care and overall well being of an individual. The ever increasing gap between primary care physicians and the number of patients will be the challenge to overcome. There is always a disparity between the demand and the supply of trained primary care physicians. Often, physicians are unwilling to go for remote/rural locations for primary health care. As a result, there is a visible shortage of physicians, which is expected to be approximately 44,000 by the year 2025, in treating basic ailments.

Health regulations are there to help patients, but how justified is it to rely only on doctors for the completion of the ACA’s goals? It is understood that forceful implementation will always have repercussions, in the times to come. To addition, there have been various new ways to involve doctors under primary care, adding to their work load. Other options need to be looked at to solve this problem.

Lack of skilled primary care providers is a major problem in United States and it is expected to worsen further as the population continues to age and a major chunk of young adults (approximately 30 million) will gain access to health care coverage during 2014.

One of the possible remedies to curb this problem is promoting nurse practitioners. A nurse practitioner can be defined as trained personnel who has completed their graduate level education in nursing services and are specifically trained to deliver high quality primary care services. Nurse practitioners, combined with physician assistants, can lead to an increase in existing primary care providers.

According to the recent reports by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, around 89% of the nurse practitioners are trained to provide primary care independently. Approximately 75% of the nurse practitioners are actually practicing in a primary health care delivery system. The clinical role of the nurse practitioner is formulated by the state’s SOP (scope of practice) laws that mention the range of services that they can deliver, as well as the norms regarding their independent practice.

A win-win situation for all:

  • Bridging up the gap between the demand and supply of the skilled primary health care providers.
  • The nurses would benefit from a promising career with good compensation and the market value of the nurses would increase substantially.
  • The physicians can devote their attention to the secondary and tertiary level of care to patients, improving the overall health care of the community at large.

This structure will prove beneficial to both the nurses as well as the physicians. Also, the spectrum of health care delivery would increase.

Additional roles for nurses:

Nurse practitioners would not only provide primary care to the ill and in need but:

  • They would also act as community facilitators as well as nursing faculty members.
  • They would spread awareness regarding basic health and hygiene, preventive measures for common ailments, immunizations, etc.
  • They would be active members of the nursing colleges where they can impart basic nursing knowledge as well as share their valuable experiences with the students.

Studies have shown that 90% of the services offered by a physician in a primary health care setting can be provided by a nurse practitioner at a much lower cost. Nurse managed health care institutions save a lot of money as patients use generic medicines and are also less hospitalized than other patients.

If the government is serious about adopting this practice as a long term solution, than attention should be paid towards

  • Developing such skilled manpower.
  • Clear guidelines should be provided as to how nurses should go about becoming independent primary health care providers.
  • Competency mapping is equally needed if this model is to become successful.

This isn’t the only solution for increasing health care demand, but at the moment this is the most feasible solution available. It can immediately start filling in the gap between the demand and supply, which is constantly increasing.

Health care reform in the United States will need an increased number of experienced nurse practitioners as leaders in the primary care arena. There are approximately 150,000 nurse practitioners at present and this figure is expected to rise in the coming years. In the near future, nurse practitioners will be the brand ambassadors of health care and will be the recognized face of primary medical care.

By Nidhi Behl Vats
Freelance Medical Writer

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