The U.S. Needs More Primary Care Practitioners

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 16.4 million people are now enrolled for health care coverage. But we have yet to see the same sorts of increases in medical school graduates entering primary care. The National Center for Health Workforce Analysis (HRSA) predicts primary care shortages as high as 20,400 physicians by 2020.

Nurse practitioner graduation rates are skyrocketing in comparison to medical students who graduate and are matched to primary care fields.

However, costly and unnecessary barriers to NP practice continue to exist, impeding both NPs and physicians from working to their fullest capacity. The unnecessary requirements in numerous states for physicians to sign orders for physical therapy or other referrals, supervise NPs, or sign off on numerous other documents are costly, waste precious physician time, and are not feasible in the real health care world.

Currently 21 states and the District of Columbia allow NPs to practice fully under their own licenses without unnecessary requirements for supervision. Numerous other states have legislation pending, but with strong physician guild resistance. It is time to remove barriers and support a collaborative dialogue about the needed changes in the U.S. primary care health system.

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Maya Haynes is a dual-degree student Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts with majors in sociology and public health, and a contributor to Medical Groups. She is committed to making sure vulnerable populations in the United States are provided with the knowledge and resources to best plan and care for their families. She regularly volunteers at local preschools and community centers to assess the needs to of the populations she plans on serving.