As many more Americans gain access to health insurance and as the population continues to see an increase in the average life expectancy, there’s a growing concern that there won’t be enough practicing physicians to keep up with the demand for healthcare. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.
The American Association of Medical Colleges estimates that the U.S. will face a physician shortage of over 90,000 physicians by 2020. Even if the number of physicians begins to rise, there will still be gaps that need to be filled and a workload that may be too much to handle. One solution to this problem is the hiring of nurse practitioners and physician assistants. This strategy is quickly gaining popularity. These employees do much of the same work as a physician at half the cost.
In many situations, particularly in rural areas or small clinics with limited funds, NPs and PAs are often the patient’s primary source of care. When compared to physicians, many of their areas of practice overlap. They’re trained in diagnosing and treating medical conditions, ordering tests, prescriptions, and patient and family counseling. Many times, these providers can handle all that the patient requires, saving both the practice and the patient thousands of dollars. They often handle chronic illnesses, diets, colds, and allergies.
Nurse practitioners and physician assistants have lower salaries and lower liability insurance. By hiring several of these providers, more patients can be seen each day and doctors are able to spend more time focusing on high-risk patients. Patients that are taken care of in a timely manner with the provider’s full attention are often more likely to return with their business.
Most practices will look into hiring NPs or PAs when supply cannot meet the demand. If the practice is considering extending hours or adding any new services, it may be time to consider hiring an NP or PA. While, by law, a physician assistant must be supervised by a physician, nurse practitioners can practice independently in some states. Either way, hiring one of these providers can be a practical and beneficial addition to the team.
Author: Lauren Daniels