Allowing nurse practitioners to expand their scope of practice will make healthcare more efficient and reduce physician burnout.
Donna Marbury, MS discussed the major questions surrounding the nurses’ scope of practice issue (“There are no easy solutions to the scope of practice debate,” September 10, 2013.)
The criticism most often raised by those who oppose nurse practitioners being given the right to practice independently is that doctors have more training. This is a misleading argument because within the limits of their training and education nurse practitioners are capable of performing many primary care MD functions. Sore throats, earaches, school physicals, house calls, monitoring glucose and cholesterol levels are just a few of the functions that nurse practitioners should be allowed to perform.
Although primary care doctors bristle when they hear that not everything they do needs to be done by an MD, the very broadness of primary care makes it so.
Furthermore, the hard life of a primary care doctor, made worse by the excessive amount of regulatory and administrative demands has brought on burnout and dissatisfaction for many of them. Is it any wonder that most medical students shun a career in primary care?
All things considered, the number of new patients soon to enter the health system under the Affordable Care Act makes it an urgent necessity to use every reasonable way to increase access to the health system.
Nurse practitioners are well-suited to help restore efficiency and job satisfaction to primary care doctors and to increase access to the health system. The best chances for achieving these goals are to encourage them to practice primary care collaboratively with MDs or to allow them to practice within the scope of their training independently. Both are valid entries into primary care.
Edward Volpintesta, MD