America’s population is growing older. Nearly 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day. The increased need for medical care among the growing population of senior citizens in the United States is creating shortages in the medical field, especially with primary care doctors.
These shortages however, have created a new opportunity for nurse practitioners to step up and use their higher education in a way never before allowed. While many states still have strict laws governing the way a nurse practitioner can treat patients, other states have already made changes which allow them greater responsibility. Nurse practitioners in many states can no prescribe medications, diagnose patients, order tests and create treatment plan.
Some states however, still require a physician to be present with the nurse practitioner. There are people on both side of the fence who are trying to make their voices heard. Physician groups have tried to oppose the expansion of the nurse practitioner’s job duties while nurses groups have been trying to have their voices heard.
Nancy O’Rourke, Massachusetts state representative for AANP believes that the data on the savings to the healthcare system with nurse practitioners is the best way to prove the benefit of updating the laws. “See who’s going to give you the best bang for your buck,” she said.
Susan Reinhard, RN, PhD and senior vice president at AARP believes that patients and families receive better advice on how to handle their care. She says as patients grow older they will average eight doctor visits per year but that they are left to manage their health on their own the rest of the time.
Families are then given the burden of taking care of complex care that used to only be done in hospitals such as colostomy care, IVs and wound care.
Nurse practitioners teach patients on how to take care of themselves, unlike physicians, who mostly just manage pain and disease. Patients who understand the benefit of the NP will soon begin to request direct care and the tide will begin to change even in the more stubborn states.