In my last article, I discussed the shortage of nurses, but this time, I’m going to talk about the shortage of physicians and nurse practitioners.
It is estimated that in California, by the year 2025, that State will be short about 4,700 primary care physicians. If a physician is not available, people take seek care from the emergency rooms for routine visits.
In an Los Angeles Times article titled “California Doesn’t Have Enough Doctors, And This Bad Law Isn’t Helping,” (click on article title to read) author David Lazarus discussed how he attended a CVS Minute Clinic and asked, “Why there aren’t more clinics like this?” The nurse practitioner replied that the law does not allow it in that a physician must supervise nurse practitioners.
Unlike surrounding States such as Nevada and Oregon, which are full practice States, California still requires nurse practitioners to be supervised. Lazarus notes that even though the physician shortage in the Golden State is expected to grow, the physicians are opposing the nurse practitioners’ efforts to get full practice authority.
The article goes on to say, “There’s no evidence that giving nurse practitioners more latitude to practice medicine endangers the public or undermines the integrity of the health care system. In fact, there is decades of evidence showing that they’re safe and the patients like them.”
As the population grows in California, this could mean not having enough permanent health care providers to meet the health care needs of this population. The article adds that 36% of California physicians refuse to see MediCal patients (like Medicaid) because of relatively low reimbursement rates.
Author Lazarus does not address why physicians oppose nurse practitioners having full practice authority. However, he implies and I suspect the reason is economic. Collaborative practice physicians do make money on supervising nurse practitioners as well as their patients.
In addition, there is concern over the amount of clinical training that a nurse practitioner must have. The problem is so obvious that even the L.A. Times author recognizes it and decided to write about it.
What can nurse practitioners do to break the gridlock with the medical profession so that full practice authority can be granted?
A place to start would be for nurse practitioners to sit down with the Medical Association to determine what their concerns are and to see if an agreement can be reached.