Part II: The Primary Care Club

There is an estimated 32 million Americans to be covered in the Affordable Care Act in 2014. In Part I on our topic on the Primary Care shortage, Dr. Peter Ubel talked about bringing in Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Physician Assistants (PAs) to help Primary Care Physicians. But with this massive increase in the number of healthcare coverage, Dr. Anna Reisman, a practicing Primary Care physician, thinks something more extreme might need to happen: Letting NPs and PAs provide on their own for patients in Primary Care settings.

According to Dr. Reisman these millions of new patients will make the number of primary care physicians needed 45,000 too few by 2020. Dr. Reisman highlights the importance of what NPs or PAs can really bring to Primary Care patients. The apposing argument to Dr. Reisman’s idea of mid-levels taking on the same responsibility as a Primary Care Physician is the difference in years of education. Primary Care Physicians, including their bachelor’s education, go through an average of 12 years of schooling before they start their practice, where as NPs and PAs go through a minimum of 6 years with a few years of work experience as an RN.

The difference between schooling reveals what looks like a big gap in experience and knowledge, but Dr. Reisman describes the difference in a new light: NPs and PAs choose a specialty right away vs. medical students who go through learning all the different specialties before choosing their field of practice.  Her argument presents the need to “unlock the gates to the Primary Care Club” of physicians and allow NPs and PAs to help fill the growing need in Primary Care providers. Check out the rest of her article here and share your thoughts on the topic: Do you agree with Dr. Reisman or disagree?