The New Face of Primary Care


Nurse practitioners are helping to fill the void left by a shrinking PCP population.

NBC Nightly Newsrecently reportedon the proclivity of patients to turn to nurse practitioner-run clinics instead of a primary care physicians (PCP) due to the rising cost of healthcare and a shortage of PCPs. According to theAssociation of American Medical Colleges, the shortage of physicians is projected to exceed 46,000 within the next decade, and nurse practitioners have been called upon to help fill the void.

The report cites a warning from those in the medical field that nurse practitioners are not adequate replacements for physicians, “who undergo more rigorous training.” Recent research has shown, however, thatpatients receive the same quality of care in retail-based clinics, which are staffed by nurse practitioners and / or physician assistants, as primary care offices.

Rebecca J. Patchin, a Board Member with the American Medical Association is quoted as saying, "With a shortage of both nurses and physicians, increasing the responsibility of nurses is not the answer to the physician shortage. Nurses are critical to the health care team, but there is no substitute for education and training."

Jody Stubler, a nurse practitioner who runs her own clinic in Salt Lake City, UT, “agrees to some extent,” but goes on to say, “If I have a patient who has a condition that’s more than I can deal with, I’m going to refer them to a specialist. A good practitioner, regardless of whether they're a physician or a nurse practitioner, [knows] their limits."

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