Highmark recruits nurse practitioners as primary-care providers

Highmark is looking to hire nurse practitioners to serve as primary-care providers, the company announced this week.

The move comes just a few months after an Institute of Medicine report called for nurses to be allowed a broader scope of practice, much to the dismay of the American Medical Association, which warned that expanding nurses' authority could endanger patients.

Highmark plans to tap into a pool of more than 200 nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania who have independent practices. The ones who are eligible to become "primary-care practitioners" must also be certified in another primary care field, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

The insurer also has designs on recruiting a broader base of NPs to its network. The news that such a big insurer will reimburse nurse practitioners as primary-care practitioners could help lure NPs from other states to Pennsylvania, Dr. Carey Vinson, Highmark's VP of quality and medical performance management.

Recognizing CRNPs' ability to work up to the full scope of their medical license will give members greater access to healthcare, Vinson said. The duties of a certified registered nurse practitioner may involve diagnosing, treating, evaluating and managing chronic disease. They may also order routine tests and prescribe medication.

"I think this will be a positive thing for nurse practitioners, and also for patients," Dr. Sandy Engberg, associate dean for clinical education at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, told the Post-Gazette.

To learn more:
- read the Highmark press release
- here's the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story