Nurse practitioners are vital to a healthy U.S. healthcare system

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT The USA Today article highlighting nurse-managed centers as one “innovative” program that could help fill the primary care physician void is important because it underscores the important role that nurse practitioners play in delivering quality healthcare services.

(THE NEWS: Nurse-managed centers may fill primary care physician void. For the full story, click here)

It is no secret that the healthcare system has been, and will continue to be, under great strain as healthcare costs soar and a shortage of primary care doctors largely contributes to the bottle-necking taking place within emergency rooms.

According to numbers provided by the Convenient Care Association, as few as 2% of medical students coming out of U.S. medical schools intend to pursue a career in general primary care. Also, between 30% and 60% of convenient care clinic patients reported not having a primary care physician. Plus, as many as 40% of convenient care clinic patients said they would have sought costlier care or would have foregone care completely if there had not been a convenient care clinic available.

Clearly, there’s a gap that needs to be filled, and convenient care clinics and such clinics as the Family Practice and Counseling Network in Philadelphia highlighted in the USA Today article, are striving to help fill that gap.

The good news is that the importance of nurse practitioners, as well as the retail-based clinic setting, is not going unnoticed. In fact, Senators Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Thad Cochran, D-Miss., in July introduced the Senate resolution officially designating Aug. 2 to 8, 2010, as National Convenient Care Clinic Week.

Now, with about 30 million uninsured gaining healthcare coverage under healthcare reform and patients making fewer physician visits, either because they can't afford it or can't get an appointment in a timely fashion, the U.S. healthcare systems needs “innovative” programs and needs nurse practitioners.