Health care, like any modern industry, is an ever-evolving field, and for a very long time, things were quite simple. There were doctors and nurses. The two roles were clearly defined with nurses providing assistance and support to doctors with very limited authority. That is, until the late 1960s when the role of a nurse practitioner was created to bridge the traditional roles of doctors and nurses.
Today, there are more than 270,000 APRNs licensed in the United States who are managing over one billion patient visits each year. APRNs are fully qualified to assess patients, interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, manage treatments and refer patients to specialists as needed. And that makes them a vital part of the conversation when it comes to the growing shortage of primary health care physicians.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are 80 million Americans who do not have access to adequate primary health care. This problem disproportionally affects rural communities where the primary care workforce has been steadily shrinking over time. In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges has warned of a shortage of more than 120,000 primary care physicians by the year 2030. This affects approximately 1 in 5 Americans.
To many, the answer seems obvious. ARPNs can fill that gap and provide quality care, especially in underserved communities. But the laws that grant APRNs full practice authority (FPA) differ from state to state. Currently, 40% of U.S. states grant APRNs FPA, but the other 60% still prevent APRNs from carrying out their jobs without obtaining approval from a physician providing oversight.
Many states are slowly moving in the direction of expanding the practice authority of APRNs to practice to the full extent of their education and licensure, which also reduces the need for onsite physicians to provide oversight. The demand for APRNs is on the rise.
By advancing your education , earning an advanced degree in nursing, and obtaining national board certification from ANCC as an APRN, registered nurses can set themselves up for success and be at the forefront of an increasing national need for primary health care clinicians. As APRNs continue to advocate for removal of barriers to full practice authority, they are the perfect solution to the health care clinician shortage.