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Advanced Practice Practitioners Play Growing Role in Primary Care

APPs expected to make up two-thirds of healthcare providers entering workforce by 2030

DAYTON, Ohio (December 10, 2018) – Sari Bright developed a love for health care growing up in the Philippines, and quickly realized she wanted to pursue a degree in nursing once she came to the United States.

“I got a nursing degree as a way to reach out to others and encourage them to lead healthy lives, but I soon learned that my role was more about addressing acute conditions than helping people to take steps to prevent them,” said Bright, APRN, with Premier Health Family Care of Vandalia.

Bright went back to school to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), one of many health care positions now known as advanced practice providers or APPs. As an APRN, Bright works in a family practice handling some of the same responsibilities of the practicing physician with whom she works. Bright is one of four APRNs at Premier Health Family Care of Vandalia who handles their own patient load, which includes well checkups, acute visits and long-term health monitoring.

“The APRNs in our office play a role very similar to any other provider,” said Joseph Allen, MD, a family practice physician who oversees the APRNs in his office, along with Christopher Lauricella, MD. “The credentials may be a little bit different behind our names, and there are orders that I might have to oversee or sign, but at the end of the day, they are able to handle up to 95 percent of what I do in the office.”

APPs are becoming increasingly important and visible in today’s health care offices. According to an analysis by the College of Nursing at Montana State University, two-thirds of health care providers entering the nation’s workforce by 2030 are expected to be APPs. This includes nurse practitioners and physician assistants who all play a growing role in offices where physicians are faced with less time and an increasing patient load.

In Ohio, APRNs are bound to a collaborative agreement, which states that they will work under the supervision of a practicing physician. Bright said the partnership with Dr. Allen is a huge asset to her, especially if she comes across a health issue on which she needs his consultation. It’s something she and her other APRN counterparts wish the public understood better.

“Sometimes I’d like for patients to give us a chance,” said Sara Wilson, APRN, who also practices alongside Dr. Allen at Premier Health Family Care of Vandalia. “We work really hard to get where we are at, much like physicians do. We are nurses first so we have a lot of critical background, which is invaluable because it gives you the gut instinct of where to go and what to do. But then we also have the extra schooling.”

Educating patients on an APRN’s role is important, and they often come to enjoy the benefits that APRNs bring to their physician’s office.

“The advantage for the patient is that they get access to healthcare that they may not have been able to get before,” Dr. Allen said. “I’m one person. I have a limit of how much I can do and how many patients I can see every day. Together, we can offer more appointments a day to patients.”

The addition of APRNs also give patients a greater variety of personalities with which to gel. Dr. Allen said there are times when patients may find they feel more comfortable with one of the APRNs, and he encourages them to stay with the APRN for their care.

Still, there is one important question that every patient seems to have even after they learn the difference between an APRN and a physician.

“One thing we hear a lot from patients is, ‘What do we call you?’” Bright said. “Because they are so used to calling their family doctor ‘Dr. Allen.’ And I just tell them the answer is, ‘Sari. You can call me Sari.’”

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