The Association of American Medical College predicts thatthe United States will be about 63,000 doctors short to cover increased health-caredemands in 2015. Currently, there are 155,000 nurse practitioners in America,who may be able to help meet those demands. The American Academy of NursePractitioners (AANP) recently launched a public awareness campaign to informthe public about nurse practitioners (NP) and their role in health care.

This AANP initiative not only strives to raise awareness ofthe NP role, but also advocates that NPs be allowed to fully practice withintheir scope nationwide in an effort to resolve the shortage of quality primarycare health-care providers that the country is expected to face as the AffordableCare Act is implemented.

Currently, the role of nurse practitioners is decided by thestate where they practice. While formal and clinical education fully prepares NPsto practice autonomously, only 16 states permit NPs to practice independent ofa supervising physician. In addition, some states restrict NP’s prescriptiveauthority.

Providing care to the underserved is challenging. Many of mypatients assume that I am a physician despite countless efforts on my part toinform them that I am an NP. A firm commitment to correcting these patientswhen they address me as “doctor” has been fruitless. I am hoping that theAANP’s national campaign will strengthen my efforts to promote the role of the NPand enable my patients to recognize that it is, in fact, an NP that is deliveringthe quality healthcare they are receiving.

I encourage all NPs to embrace the AANP campaign and sharein promoting the role NPs play in health care among their colleagues, patientsand friends. If you are not already a member, consider joining the AANP. Youcan find more information on campaign efforts and how you can get involved onthe AANP website.

Leigh Montejo, MSN, FNP-BC, provideshealth care to underserved populations at the Metropolitan CommunityHealth Service’s Agape Clinic in Washington, North Carolina.