There’s a doctor shortage in Texas and in the nation that will only get worse. A group that includes economist Ray Perryman has at least a partial solution: allowing nurses to play a great role in health care. That would include allowing them to write some prescriptions.
The change would even create jobs.
“Using advanced practice registered nurses, or APRNs, in Texas would increase state economic output by $8 billion and create nearly 100,000 permanent jobs, a recent economic analysis concluded,” the Austin Business Journal explained. “The report, conducted by economist Ray Perryman, was funded by Texas Team Advancing Health through Nursing, which is a statewide coalition made up of businesses, higher education, health care advocacy groups, hospitals and others. Perryman is a member of Texas Team.”
What’s more, it would help communities that are underserved by physicians — and many communities soon will be.
“Primary care physicians already are in short supply in parts of the country, and the landmark health overhaul that will bring them millions more newly insured patients in the next few years promises extra strain,” the Associated Press reported last year. “The new law goes beyond offering coverage to the uninsured, with steps to improve the quality of care for the average person and help keep us well instead of today’s seek-care-after-you’re-sick culture. To benefit, you’ll need a regular health provider.
As with the health care law itself, Massachusetts provides an early indicator of what could happen nationally.
“Massachusetts offers a snapshot of how giving more people insurance naturally drives demand,” AP explained. “The Massachusetts Medical Society last fall reported just over half of internists and 40 percent of family and general practitioners weren’t accepting new patients, an increase in recent years as the state implemented nearly universal coverage.”
Texas has taken steps to address the looming shortage here. In 2009, the Legislature passed a bill to help new doctors repay their student loans if they work in a medically underserved region.
But loan assistance by itself won’t stop the shortage; neither will any provisions within the health care reform law itself.
“Using APRNs more fully for treatment and for tasks clearly within the scope of their education and expertise can lead to significant health care savings and efficiencies,” Perryman says. “When these savings are spent for other productive purposes, the economy enjoys benefits. Moreover, as health care needs and costs increase and access becomes more challenging, these benefits also will rise.”
The economic benefits are amazing.
Of course, the nurses would have to maintain their credentials and a “collaborative” relationship with a physician or physician group.
Lobbyists for Texas physicians should stand down on this issue; a new law allowing nurses to do more is no threat to doctors. It’s just a common-sense prescription.