Though the nurse practitioner profession is relatively new, it’s made a profound impact on healthcare. Primary care was never the same after Loretta Ford and Henry Silver developed the first nurse practitioner program in 1965 to alleviate the severe shortage of primary care physicians.
Filling the Demand: Then and Now
At the time, more physicians were turning to specialized medicine, creating a huge demand for primary care providers. The healthcare industry is now facing yet another shortage, as physicians flock to specialty practices that can pay up to $100,000 more than primary care.
From 2005 to 2015, primary care physician jobs grew 8%, whereas specialty jobs increased by 48% in that time. This lack of primary care means less access and affordability for patients, which is why this is such a crucial issue.
The future of primary care may lie in the hands of the people whose jobs were created for this very reason. That’s right—it’s time for the nurse practitioners (NPs) to shine, once again.
When it comes to primary care, NPs are a highly qualified alternative to physicians. The overwhelming majority (89%) are certified in primary care. Not only that, they’re gaining more responsibility through legislative support. Many states are giving NPs direct access to patients and more leeway in their practice to evaluate, diagnose and prescribe medications.
More Primary Care NPs: It’s a Win-Win
When NPs get the same freedoms as physicians, it’s a big win for healthcare. Physicians want to get paid more, which is why more of them are specializing.
NPs, on the other hand, want to get the respect they’ve long deserved within the healthcare industry. Lucky for them, there’s a huge void to fill where physicians sought opportunity elsewhere. The shortage is a matter of occupational choice—not displacement. The bottomline line is that physicians shouldn’t feel threatened by the advancements of nurse practitioners.
Nobody has anything to lose with this trend, but everyone has something to gain, especially those who benefit most from healthcare—that is, the patients.
Providing quality care for all should be the goal of every practicing clinician. Having NPs fill in the primary care gap will give more people in both urban and rural communities access to affordable care.
Really, it makes sense that NPs become the next leader in this type of care. After all, primary care is the reason nurse practitioners even exist. Now these professionals get to fulfill their purpose and go beyond to ensure quality care.