Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Nurse Practitioners Key to Healthcare Reform

Filed under: Nursing Science,Politics — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 04:08

   During the 2008 election year, the American Nurses Association (ANA) endorsed then-candidate Barack Obama. One of the main reasons the ANA endorsed the President was because of his understanding of the importance of the Nursing profession and its vital role in the United States healthcare system. Today, TIME highlighted several areas of Obama’s healthcare reform bill which specifically refers to the importance of Nurse Practitioners in meeting America’s needs for healthcare, particularly in primary and preventative care settings. Currently, less than 10% of all physicians choose primary and preventative care practice settings. Excerpted from the TIME report: 

“There is an existing group of providers that health reformers are hoping can help fill this gap: Nurse Practitoners. Depending on the state in which they practice, nurse practitioners, with advanced training often including master’s or doctoral degrees in nursing, can often treat and diagnose patients, as well as prescribe medication. And they can do these things at a lower cost than doctors – Medicare, for example, reimburses nurse practitioners 80% of what is paid to physicians for the same services. As part of health reform, the Administration wants more money for the National Health Service Corps, which offers loan forgiveness to primary-care providers – including nurse practitioners as well as doctors – who agree to work in rural and remote areas. But even if these measures encourage more medical students to pursue careers in general practice, it will take years to have a real impact. Nurse practitioners, on the other hand, require fewer years of training and can therefore bump up their ranks faster. In the recently released House health-reform bill, nurse practitioners (and physician’s assistants, another relatively new, but smaller, category of medical professionals who can perform medical procedures and often prescribe medication) are listed alongside doctors as primary-care providers. Nurse practitioners lobbied hard for this legislative language in meetings with White House health officials, including Nancy-Ann DeParle, Obama’s health-reform czar.”

Important to note, research on healthcare outcomes and patient satisfaction has overwhelmingly suggested Nurse Practitoners provide care that is at least comparable to physicians; some studies even show patients rate interactions with Nurse Practitioners more favorably than those with physicians. Obama and Democratic leaders have an uphill battle in getting true healthcare reform, which is so desperately needed in our country, passed. Yet it remains so refreshing to have leadership with a realistic perception of what really is happening in the US healthcare system and is using nursing scientists and professionals in making policy aimed at improving how America accesses and receives healthcare.

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