by Brett Snodgrass, MSN, APRN, FNP-C
Welcome to HealthyWomen's new For Professionals channel, where women like us who are health care providers can find industry news, information and printable patient-education resources. As a nurse practitioner (NP) I know all too well the time constraints associated with office visits. To be able to build on the foundation you've established in the exam room, with trusted, medically reviewed health content that's easy for patients to understand—that's a win-win for patients and health care providers alike.
This resource could not come at a more crucial time for NPs like me. With the recent election results, it is evident that health care reform, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, is here to stay. Within the next two years, if federal health care reforms proceed as expected, roughly 30 million uninsured people in the United States will be newly insured and trying to find new health care providers.
This creates a huge problem because, according to research in the Annals of Family Medicine, leading medical researchers project that the United States will experience a shortage of about 52,000 primary care physicians by 2025. We are already seeing a mass exodus in doctors from primary care. There are major Medicare cuts happening, and they will continue to happen as states look for ways to make up budget shortfalls. For this very reason, many physicians are choosing to specialize, as opposed to entering primary care.
It is truly a time for NPs to step up and take an active role in health care reform.
For nearly a half-century, NPs across the United States have provided comprehensive, cost-effective, patient-centered services to millions of Americans in need of primary, acute and specialty health care services. But right now there are bills in congress, including in my own state of Tennessee, that would place new limits on the types of procedures NPs can perform.
Recently, the Institute of Medicine, together with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, released a report addressing some of the current challenges to the health care system. The report strongly recommended that advanced practice registered nurses—including nurse practitioners—be allowed to practice to the full scope of their abilities and that unnecessary barriers to that practice should be removed.
As many of you are aware, NPs are advanced practice nurses who provide high-quality health care services similar to those of a physician. We diagnose and treat a wide range of health problems and offer a unique approach that stresses both care and cure. Besides clinical care, NPs focus on health promotion, disease prevention, health education and counseling. We help patients make wise health and lifestyle choices. We are truly a patient's partner in health.
NPs have graduate, advanced education and clinical training beyond their registered nurse preparation. Most have master's degrees and many have doctorates.
From treating illness to advising patients on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we provide a full range of services, including:
- Order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests such as lab work and X-rays
- Diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, infections and injuries
- Prescribe medications and other treatments
- Manage patients' overall care
- Spend time counseling patients
- Help patients learn how their actions affect their health and well-being
And patients who see NPs report an extremely high level of satisfaction with the care they receive.
Healthcare in America today faces many obstacles, most notably rising costs and the shortage of available health care providers. We have the chance right now to play a part in solving the health care problems we currently face in the United States.
What can you do right now?
- Familiarize yourself with the Affordable Care Act.
- When you see something that concerns you, write to congress and express your concerns.
- Visit my blog, www.TheNPMom.wordpress.com, for information on Senate Bill 2275 and House Bill 2558 and learn how these bills propose to limit the procedures that NPs perform.