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NPs Push to Make Their Presence Known
June 13, 2001
New York - More than 80,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) deliver primary care services in the United States, but in looking through a health plan directory you would never know it.
Most NPs are silent partners in the current system, invisible in most managed care schema and often unknown to both the employers who purchase health plans and the beneficiaries who receive care under them. Although NPs have been providing comprehensive and highly effective care for more than 30 years, very few have made their way onto managed care provider panels, and most do not appear in a typical health plan directory. "Nurse practitioners are more than qualified to perform services typically provided by primary care physicians, but until regulations and policies are revised, most patients will find it difficult to gain direct access to them," said Jeffrey C. Bauer, PhD, a nationally recognized medical economist.
A broad-based coalition of NPs is out to change the status quo. Banding together to launch a campaign they call "Nurse Practitioners: Rx for America's Health," nurse practitioners from every part of the country and every area of healthcare are now poised to make their presence known, not only within the business environment, but also in the public policy arena. The campaign's prescription for change includes strategies to influence shifts in policy that increase the visibility and improve the representation of NPs so that all Americans will, in fact, have real healthcare choices.
The aging of the country's population illustrates both the timeliness of, and logic behind, the campaign's goal. The growing demand for healthcare services tailored to the needs of older persons should provide great incentive for policy makers and insurers to push for inclusion of NPs as primary care providers, say experts from the National Conference of Gerontological Nurse Practitioners. In this context, NPs are invaluable resources because of the emphasis they place on preventive healthcare.
According to an article published in the September-October 2000 issue of the Harvard Business Review, NPs are more likely to provide preventive care than physicians and they generally spend more time with patients as well. The same argument can be made for pediatric services, according to representatives of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. "As the saying goes, 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.' This is especially true when it comes to pediatric care," states this group of more than 6000 pediatric clinicians.
The biggest challenge today, say campaign members, is to provide essential healthcare to the greatest number of people in the least restrictive way. The NP campaign attempts to meet this challenge by addressing not only the present limitations of managed care policy, but also the legislative and regulatory barriers that currently preclude many patients from choosing NPs as their primary care clinicians. "Freeing America's highly able nurse practitioners from arbitrary and unfounded restraints on their practice so that they can more equitably provide the services people need translates to better patient outcomes and smarter fiscal policy," said campaign member Carolyn Buppert, who is both a practicing attorney and nurse practitioner.
The "Nurse Practitioners: Rx for America's Health" campaign is made up of and supported by individuals from 43 states, 30 state and specialty professional groups, 6 corporate and 4 conference sponsors, and 5 national NP organizations. The campaign's board of directors is made up of 2 at-large NP representatives along with representatives from the national organizations: the American College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP), the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP), the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health (NPWH), the National Conference of Gerontological Nurse Practitioners (NCGNP), and the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF). The goal of the campaign is to raise $120,000, and they are progressing toward that amount, with slightly more than $100,000 raised, according to an update put out by the group. Individual contributions, which make up the majority of funding, have come from donors in 42 states and the District of Columbia. For more information about the group or to learn how to donate, contact Ann Westley Byrne, NP, campaign chair, via email at email@example.com
MedscapeWire is edited by Deborah Flapan, an associate editor at Medscape. Send press releases and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org