Journal of Nursing

Nurse Practitioners Are The Answer To Looming Physician Shortage


By Anuja Vaidya

With a physician shortage in the U.S. likely in the next decade, nurse practitioners can help fill the gaps that will arise in patient care, two healthcare advocacy leaders wrote in an opinion piece.

The piece was written by Emily Barson, executive director of healthcare policy nonprofit United States of Care, and Russ Latino, vice president of economic opportunity at conservative political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity. Mr. Latino also oversees the organization's healthcare efforts.

In the piece, the authors point to the 2019 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges that estimates the U.S. will see a shortage of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032. They argue that states should allow nurse practitioners to work at the full scope of their training so that they can make bridge the gap in care.

Currently, 28 states restrict nurse practitioners' ability to practice freely, including requiring physician supervision. These restrictions do not appear to improve care, the authors state, and studies have shown that primary care provided by nurse practitioners is comparable, and in some instances superior, to care provided by physicians. Patient satisfaction is also similar for care provided by nurse practitioners and physicians.

The authors also point to studies showing the positive affects of allowing nurse practitioners full practice authority on patient care, including one by the Census Bureau and the University of Hawaii-Honolulu that found the rate of emergency room visits fell by more than 21 percent in states that expanded practice authority for nurse practitioners.

"Reforms to allow nurse practitioners to practice to the full extent of their training have expanded care, cut costs, and saved lives," the authors concluded.


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