NPs Primed to Plug Gaps in Primary Care
Despite legislative changes and social movements across the nation for improved health care access and health and wellness, the U.S. continues to show gaps in care quality and health outcomes for poor and rural populations.
A shortage of primary care providers perpetuates this problem and supports the need for graduates of health professions to choose to practice in underserved communities, according to a report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
Nurse practitioners are prepared to meet these needs, say Greer Glazer, PhD, Dean of UC College of Nursing, and Karen Bankston, PhD, Associate Dean of Clinical Practice, Partnership and Community Engagement.
“For over 50 years, research has consistently shown that NPs provide high quality, cost effective primary, acute and long-term care,” Drs. Glazer and Bankston write in an article for The Sullivan Alliance to Transform the Health Professions, a non-profit founded by Louis W. Sullivan, MD, former U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary.
The alliance works to raise awareness of the value of racial and ethnic diversity in health professions. Glazer serves on the organization’s board of directors.
Nurse practitioners graduate with master’s or doctoral degrees in nursing, which require academic and clinical preparation to provide care to patients and populations that include health promotion, disease prevention and diagnosis, and chronic disease management.
Today, there are more than 205,000 nurse practitioners in the U.S., and 87 percent of those are prepared in primary care. These nurses are more likely than other primary care providers to practice in underserved rural and urban communities.
“NPs are a viable, evidence-based solution to this current and impending crisis,” Drs. Glazer and Bankston write.
Nurse practitioners – sometimes referred to as advanced practice nurses – have received the knowledge and experience necessary to evaluate patients; diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests; and initiate and manage treatments, including prescribing medications.
With as much evidence in support of nurse practitioners, not all states allow advanced practice nurses the authority to practice to the full extent of their licensure, without an agreement with an outside health discipline to provide patient care. Only 19 states and the District of Columbia allow for full, independent practice.
Glazer and Bankston write, “Every American deserves high-quality, cost-effective health care by their provider of choice. Acceptance of the critical role of nurse practitioners in primary care’s time has come.”