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By Beth Haney
Nurse Practitioners: California's Special Session on Health Care Should Focus on Filling "Provider Gap"
With 4.6 million more Californians expected to seek health services when the Affordable Care Act is in full force, the state's nurse practitioners are urging state legislators to focus on filling the "provider gap" in the state's health care
There are more than 16,000 nurse practitioners in California - advanced practice registered nurses who have completed graduate level education such as a master's or a doctoral degree. The Legislature will find that in many cases they deliver the same high quality of health care as provided by physicians, but often at lower cost.
Both the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing recommend that nurse practitioners and all health care providers be allowed to work to the full level of their education and training to provide the necessary care for our population. Studies published in the Journal of American Medicine and by the Rand Corp. show that, if nurse practitioners are allowed to do so, they provide equal quality of care and health outcomes as physicians.
President Obama recognized this in the Affordable Care Act. It includes funds to increase the number of nurse practitioners throughout the nation as well as establish more nurse practitioner-led clinics.
This is especially important for lower-income communities and underserved populations, such as Latinos and African Americans.
In these communities, where physicians already are in short supply, nurse practitioners are addressing routine health care needs and administer preventive medicine that will stave off more serious illness and disease such as diabetes and obesity. They often also treat patients in low-cost clinics rather than in more expensive hospital emergency rooms.
Nurse practitioners are already in the exact places where demand for health services will increase. In California, they work in community clinics and urgent care centers, hospice facilities andnursing homes, school campuses and veterans facilities, hospitals and private practices.
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