Nurse Practitioners Become Important Part of Healthcare Growth  

Nurse Practitioners help address physician shortage, increase in patient coverage

LEBANON, Ohio (January 28, 2015) – Lisa Wright spent eight years working in a hospital as a registered nurse and loved it. But several years ago, she was ready to take her career to the next level and deepen her involvement in patient education and wellness.

Pursuing her master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner (NP) seemed the next best step. As an NP, Wright would not only realize her dream of following patients through their continuum of care, but also play an important role in the future of healthcare. The need for nurse practitioners has been fueled by a dip in the number of medical students pursuing primary care coupled with a jump in the insured population.

This past summer, Ms. Wright was hired by Premier HealthNet to serve in a single-provider office in Lebanon. Ms. Wright works alongside Ann DeClue, MD, in the town of 20,000 people and often finds that while some patients don’t first understand the role of a NP, they quickly become comfortable once they know her education and get to know her as a person. 

“Many patients will come in and, at first, think I am a doctor and even call me doctor,” Wright said. “I help educate them on my role and let them know that Dr. DeClue is there if I ever need a consultation and if they no longer want to see me they are welcome to see her.”

In her role, Ms. Wright works under the direction of a physician and performs patient history and physical exams, diagnoses disease, orders lab work and diagnostic testing, prescribes most medications and educates patients about their health. Most importantly, her presence enables the practice to offer patients same-day sick appointments – something that has become increasingly difficult for some primary care providers to offer.

Wright is one of several nurse practitioners brought on board Premier’s primary care physician network in the past year as a way to better serve its patient population.

“Over the last few years, there has been a decline in the number of primary care physicians and a dramatic increase in the nurse practitioner profession,” said Ken Prunier, president and CEO of Premier HealthNet. “Placing a nurse practitioner in an office allows us to change to a more cost effective care team model: Practices can continue to offer patients same-day appointments, offer more health services and deliver a unique caretaking model of nursing that includes more comprehensive, personalized education and counseling.”

According to the Association of American Medical CollegesOff Site Icon, the country will be short more than 65,000 primary care physicians by 2025. In contrast, the NP role is growing exponentially. Studies, like those conducted by national research firm RAND Corp.Off Site Icon, estimate the NP workforce will grow to 244,000 in 2025, an increase of 94 percent from 128,000 in 2008.

Becoming a NP has afforded Wright the ability to “solve the puzzle of an individual’s health,” as she calls it. This is something she didn’t often do when she worked as a floor nurse. She has also seen the effect of the Affordable Care Act firsthand, which offers some 32 million Americans new access to health insurance.

“I have had people who have not had primary care for years and up until now have only received health care in an emergency room,” Wright said. “It is exciting to see that patient become educated on their health issues and then become active in their care. When I see them come back for follow-up appointments, it makes me realize that what I am doing is making a difference.”

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