By 2030, the United States is expected to face a shortage of more than 100,000 doctors according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Rural communities like Bureau County—already facing the challenges of an aging population—will have an increasingly difficult task to afford and recruit doctors for hospitals and clinics. “Providers” may be a solution to adapt with the times.
Advanced Practice Providers, such as nurse practitioners, are increasingly being recognized for their experience and training to be able to provide primary care on a similar level to M.D.s or DOs. In addition to extensive experience, nurse practitioners undergo years of rigorous graduate programs that prepare them to evaluate, diagnose, and prescribe with full authority in many states.
One of today’s healthcare goals is to change the conversation and raise a generation that trusts the wide array of personnel that train to address healthcare needs, not just doctors. Many healthcare systems have started using the term “providers” instead of “physicians” and list MDs, PAs, DOs, and NPs on the same level of quality and authority.
There will always be people who demand to see a doctor, but the trend is to recognize that NPs can provide high quality care, they can get to know patients and their history just as well as doctors, and they can help alleviate the shortage that is facing rural health systems.
For many patients, this is a change that can seem uncomfortable. Healthcare can be an expensive and dangerous part of life, so skepticism is well-placed. Nevertheless, writing off nurse practitioners because their names are not followed by MD is a mistake. Staffing primary care clinics with both MDs and NPs allows a more flexible schedule and ability for providers to form relationships with patients. It can give providers time to ensure their patients receive quality care in emergency situations and can be referred to the right specialists.
If the choice is between seeing an NP tomorrow, or waiting three weeks for the doctor to become available, the choice is simple.
(Perry recognizes the value that experienced N.P.s have to offer as providers. Perry’s providers include nine N.P.s from the Family Health Clinic to Prompt Care.)