Expanding nurse practitioner roles benefits patients

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Expanding nurse practitioner roles benefits patients
Expanding nurse practitioner roles benefits patients

Some of my midwifery practice partners and I were recently outraged to hear about a physician colleague speaking disparagingly about nurse practitioners.  He apparently told a patient that NP's are "too stupid to get into medical school" and do not offer quality care. 

The United States is in the midst of a healthcare crisis in part due to a shortage of primary care clinicians. This physician's divisive attitude, which others undoubtedly harbor, must be dispelled to meet our current challenges.

Obesity and chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension are rising at alarming rates, and there are huge healthcare disparities between racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. So how do we overcome these issues?

An obvious solution is one that most advanced practice nurses have known for years — expand the role of ARNPs and increase access for all patients. There is an increasing body of evidence to support this idea.

“The ideal health system comprises multiple providers who communicate with and are accountable to each other to deliver coordinated care,” wrote authors of a new systemic review comparing advanced practice outcomes, published in the journal of Nursing Economic$.

The review, conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and several other institutions in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., encompassed data from 69 randomized controlled clinical trials and 49 observational studies ranging from 1990 to 2008. To date, it is the most complete compilation of data comparing APRN care to other providers' care, namely physicians.

The main finding was that care provided by nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives working in collaboration with physicians is comparable, if not superior in some cases, to care provided exclusively by physicians. Additionally, the review indicated that use of clinical nurse specialists in hospital settings decreased medical costs, patient complication rates and stay length.

Legislators in states that continue to restrict the practices and privileges of ARNPs need to revaluate their policies and modify them to enable ARNPs to work within their full scope of practice.

As APRNs we must start the movement by educating patients and physicians alike about the quality and cost-effective care we are able to provide, so that we can move forward in collaboration to meet this country's health care needs.

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