By Jennifer Thew, RN
Originally appeared in HealthLeaders Magazine.
Access to primary care providers has been a growing concern in recent years, particularly as the U.S. population ages and requirements set forth by the Affordable Care Act take full effect.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources & Services Administration, estimates there will be a shortage of 20,400 primary care physicians in 2020 if the current system for delivering primary care remains fundamentally the same.
However, the organization says the shortage would be lessened if nurse practitioners and physician assistants were integrated into a system that emphasizes team-based care.
Still, some physician groups continue to push back against removing NP scope-of-practice barriers. In November 2017, the American Medical Association called for a resolution to create a strategic campaign to oppose legislation that includes the National Council of State Boards of Nursing's APRN Compact licensure model and independent practice. The model would allow advanced practice registered nurses to have one multistate license that provides the ability to practice in all compact states.
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But this week, at its 2018 National Conference in Denver, Colorado, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners unveils a strategic campaign of its own. The multimillion-dollar integrated "We Choose NPs" campaign aims to raise public awareness of the role NPs play in expanding access to primary care.
NPs Boost Access to Care
The latest numbers from the AANP show the NP profession is a growing force. Currently, there are more than 248,000 NPs licensed to practice in the U.S., and about 23,000 NP students enter the workforce each year.
- NPs have been found, in multiple-studies, to produce quality, financial, and clinical outcomes equal to or better than physicians.
- The availability of NPs was about 50% higher in the least-healthy counties compared to the healthiest.
- They are more likely than physicians and PAs to practice in lower-income areas with low life expectancy.
Recently, researchers at the Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organization, called for reducing scope-of-practice restrictions on APRNs and PAs.
The Federal Trade Commission has also supported reducing regulatory restrictions regarding NP scope of practice.
"NPs are the provider of choice for millions of families across the United States," says AANP's President, Joyce Knestrick, PhD, C-FNP, APRN, FAANP, in a news release. "We conduct over one billion patient visits each year. From rural to urban areas, and in every care setting, NPs are leading the way in providing high-quality, accessible health care for all. This year's conference and our new campaign demonstrate NPs' unparalleled commitment to expanding primary care access—and emphasizing patients' choice of primary care providers."