The Impact of the Next Generation of Nursing

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will mean the addition of as many as 35 million Americans with health insurance into a healthcare system already stretched to capacity with overcrowded EDs, shrinking resources, and a dramatic shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs). Even before health reform, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimated that an additional 45,000 PCPs would be needed by 2020 to keep up with demand. Yet, fewer and fewer medical school students are choosing primary care medicine. [polldaddy poll=6923076] Qualified, Experienced Nurses Can Help The professionals most qualified to fill this physician shortage are nurse practitioners (NPs), registered nurses who have completed graduate-level education, and nurses who have already worked 10 or more years and have accumulated practical, bedside experience that complements what was learned in the classroom. PCPs everywhere would be wise to look at NPs as a natural complement to their practice and a logical partner in caring for their patients. Nurse practitioners are already tasked with delivering some medical care, including: Prescribing or renewing prescriptions for most drugs. Ordering blood tests. Performing routine medical examinations. Monitoring chronic conditions. Counseling patients about prevention. Treating colds, sore throats, and the flu. Many states have expanded the scope of NP duties and responsibilities. For example, Montana allows NPs to work without any physician supervision. By contrast, Texas requires physicians’ direct, on-site supervision at least 20% of the time. Additionally, 28 states are debating whether to further loosen restrictions that prevent NPs from performing more tasks independently. The influx of newly insured patients into the healthcare system will also profoundly affect where people receive care. Some...