Nurse Practitioners Filling a Void: March 30, 2012

With the graying of American, more people are expected to make more visits to the doctor.

“Unfortunately there’s fewer physicians going into primary care and patients are living longer, so now we have a focus more on chronic care management how do we keep people healthier longer and give them a good quality of live,” says Arlene Wright, a nurse practitioner with Lee Memorial Health System.

With a nationwide shortage of primary care physicians, nurse practitioners are becoming part of the solution, filling a void in health care.

“We order and interpret tests, we perform physical examinations, we really try to counsel and educate and guide our patients to healthier lifestyles,” says Wright.

Arlene is one of several nurse practitioners with postgraduate educations employed by Lee Memorial Health System.

“We are considered expert clinicians. Most of us do have various specialties: primary care, acute care, and subspecialties. We do very similar patterns to physicians, we work in collaboration with physicians.”

Nurse practitioners can prescribe certain drugs and often have more flexible schedules.

“If your physician is too busy or not available we actually have open access where patients are able to get in the same day to get treated,” says Wright.

The luxury of time is a payoff to patients.

“That extra time might mean a patient understanding not only their medication that they’re taking, but their whole disease process and learning what they can do to improve their overall health. So that extra time can come back in volumes,” says Wright.

Nationally the number of nurse practitioners is on the rise as an efficient way to meet health care demand.