Some studies predict a shortage of 40,000 primary care physicians (PCPs) by 2020, which means more and more practices will be incorporating “physician extenders” such as nurse practitioners (NPs) to cope with America’s ever-growing demand for health care services.

If your practice is feeling the shortage of qualified PCPs, it may be time to employ an NP to help ease your workload. NPs are becoming key players in the primary health care delivery system, and are poised for expanded clinical practice opportunities.

The evidence is in…

Key findings from a study that reviewed NP contributions to improving primary care and reducing costly health resource use included the following:

  • Approximately 70% to 80% of patients who see NPs are more satisfied, have longer consultations, and have more tests, with no appreciable differences in patient outcomes, processes of care, or resource use.
  • NPs provided care that was equivalent to that provided by physicians; some studies even indicate care was more effective among selected measures than that provided by physicians.
  • Better results were identified among NPs on measures of patient follow-up, consultation time, satisfaction, and the providing of screening, assessment, and counseling.
  • In a cost analysis conducted by the RAND Corporation, the average cost of an NP or physician assistant visit was 20% to 35% lower than the average cost of a physician visit. This change in patient care could result in a savings of $4.2 to $8.4 billion between 2010 and 2020.

Where the NPs are working…

There are over 148,000 NPs practicing in the US. Here’s where they are currently filling the need:

  • 75% practice in adult or family care
  • 9% specialize in pediatrics
  • 9% are in women’s health
  • 5% work in acute care
  • 10% care for the elderly, premature infants, cancer patients, and psychiatric/mental health patients

NP fast facts…

Here’s a snapshot of today’s NP:

  • According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), NPs rank as one of the fastest-growing health care professions
  • The average NP is female (96%) and 48 years old
  • 49% have been in practice for 12.8 years as a family NP
  • NPs hold prescriptive privileges in all 50 states, with controlled substances in 48
  • 96.5% prescribe medications, averaging 20 prescriptions per day
  • 18% of NPs practice in rural or frontier settings

Remember, NPs are registered nurses holding a master degree and are trained to perform many of the same tasks as a family physician. Studies suggest that NPs cost the health care system less, they provide similar or sometimes better-quality care, and patients tend to be just as satisfied with their services. Isn’t it time you considered adding an NP to your practice?

To find a qualified NP, check out the AANP Web site at: www.aanp.org.

Reference

  1. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) http://aanp.org
  2. The Role of Nurse Practitioners in Reinventing Primary Care. http://www.rwjf.org/pr/product.jsp?id=63650
  3. http://www.lifeupenn.org/Growing%20role%20of%20nurse%20practitioners.pdf
  4. Nurse practitioners’ growing role in your health care http://articles.marketwatch.com/2010-06-02/finance/30785536_1_nurse-practitioners-physician-extenders-health-care