Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Changes in laws help nurse practitioners expand presence; now one in four health-care providers in rural areas

Faylene Dancer, nurse practitioner in Sutherland, Neb.
(NET photo by Grant Gerlock; for story, click here.)
"Nurse practitioners have dramatically increased their presence as the go-to primary care providers in rural America, thanks in part to regulatory changes that allow patients to more easily see these health professionals," contributor Bruce Jaspen writes for Forbes magazine. "Nurse practitioners now account for 1 in 4 medical care providers in U.S. rural practices – a "significant" 43.2 percent increase from 2008 to 2016." They also increased in urban areas.

Jaspen's story is based on research published in the journal Health Affairs, which found that in 2016, nurse practitioners "constituted 25.2 percent of providers in rural and 23 percent in non-rural practices, compared to 17.6 percent and 15.9 percent, respectively, in 2008. States with full scope-of-practice laws had the highest NP presence, but the fastest growth occurred in states with reduced and restricted scopes of practice. . . . Rural practices in states with full scopes of practice generally had the highest percentages of practices with NPs, increasing from 35 percent to 45.5 percent."

Jaspen notes, "Nurse practitioners are educated to perform myriad primary care functions, diagnose, prescribe medications and conduct physical exams, but state scope of practice laws historically prevented them from such care unless they have an agreement with an overseeing physician."

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