The Primary Care Gap – And A Solution – AONP

The Primary Care Gap – And A Solution

The Primary Care Gap – And A Solution

Nurse practitioners have always helped patients receive care more easily. Today, there is a growing gap between the number of patients who need primary care and the number and availability of primary care providers. Many patients are waiting longer than they should to receive care due to inaccessibility to primary care physicians. 

Often, physicians decide in medical school to specialize. This has left a gap in the primary care setting and has presented an opportunity for advanced practice nurses. Although the advanced practice degrees include specialty pathways the most common are family and pediatrics.

The simplest and most obvious way nurse practitioners have been a part of the solution has been availability. Michelle Ellenburg M.S.N., R.N. with St. Anthony Hospital. “We definitely have quicker access. Everyone can get in to see a nurse practitioner eventually. I’ve had a handful of patients who have been referred to me from the E.R., who have had no primary care provider. One lady was diagnosed with diabetes while in the hospital. She had no access to any care, and she came in and saw me. We got her tools to monitor her diabetes, and in the last 6 months we’ve gotten her diabetes really under control!”

Many times the sheer speed of receiving care can make a significant impact. “When patients like her are able to get in to see me in the first couple of days after her hospital visit, I think that makes the difference. When people get big diagnoses like that, and on top of it you tell them, ‘these are the lifestyle changes you have to make’, it’s a bigger impact when you are able to tell them immediately after their diagnosis.” 

We have already seen the impact of nurse practitioners on the health care systems of rural areas. Michelle Ellenburg had quite a few friends that she graduated with at the University of Oklahoma who were from rural areas and all went back to their own communities. “Just talking with them briefly since then, you can tell that they’re really busy. I’m getting busy, but I’m in the city, and there are a lot of care providers to see. They’ve all been crazy busy because there are so many people that need health care who haven’t been able to receive it before. Or their patients were driving long distances to receive care, and now they are able to get care in their own communities. Nurse practitioners are definitely filling that gap.”

Not only are nurse practitioners more available, but also their bedside manner is impressive. “Nurse practitioners are great, specifically more holistic… we spend more time getting to know you and understand why you make the decisions you’re making. Like maybe you can’t afford your blood pressure medication, so we do a good job of help people getting resources like that, so I think we’re awesome. Almost all of my patients say, ‘You know, it’s so nice to feel like I’m heard’. I feel like I’ve heard that a lot lately. That is because, you know, I worked along the bedside, and I was trained as a nurse, and that’s just usually our mannerisms.”

Nurse practitioners are more available, uniquely qualified and carefully trained in bedside patient care. As health care advances across the country, nurse practitioners will continue to play a vital role in primary care.