Advanced practice RNs are frugal fix to doc shortage

As hospitals struggle to ease the shortage of primary-care doctors, advanced practice nurses could pose an efficient and cost-effective solution. Enabling nurses to perform to the fullest extent of their training and allowing them to act as full partners with other healthcare professionals will help the healthcare industry produce much needed caregivers, and at lower costs, according to an article in the April issue of John Hopkins' Nursing Magazine.

Health reform will increase the number of Americans who have insurance or require primary care, and advanced practice nurses will play a major role in satisfying that growing demand for care, reports the Oregonian.

"Nursing is absolutely critical to help fill the void," Michael Bleich, dean of the School of Nursing at Oregon Health & Science University, tells the newspaper.

Before hospitals can utilize nurses in larger, more independent roles in the delivery of care, though, advanced practice nursing laws need to become more consistent, notes Dean Martha N. Hill, PhD, RN, in Nursing Magazine.

So far, 16 states have practice laws in place that allow licensed nurse practitioners to care for patients, order and interpret diagnostic tests and prescribe meds without a physician's oversight, notes the Oregonian. Other state regulations vary.

Despite the rising need for care--and caregivers--not all healthcare professionals support nurse practitioners taking on expanded roles. The American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, among others, still maintain that nurse practitioners should only be allowed to practice under physician supervision.

For more:
- read the Oregonian article
- here's the John Hopkins Nursing Magazine article