Op-Ed: Independent APRN’s will ease shortage of primary care doctors

In her concise May 15 article “Obamacare got them insurance, but patients still face barriers” Arielle Levin Becker outlined some of the major problems facing the “newly insured” under Obamacare.

Although there are several points I would like to respond to, the most important is the shortage of primary care doctors.

There is no doubt that these doctors are over-worked and over-booked. Many are not taking on new patients. Burnout is a common complaint. I can’t think of any who recommended a career in primary care to their children.

And, because they are rushed, patients feel that they are not treated as individuals and increasingly they see the health system as impersonal.

The shortage of primary care doctors has been addressed recently and Gov. Malloy recently signed a bill giving the advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) the right to practice independently. This has great potential to lessen the load on the doctors and to make it easier for patients to get primary care. It also will allow the doctors to practice in a more personal way.

By joining the primary care workforce, the APRNs will be able to handle many common medical problems that do not require an MD degree and make it easier for people to get medical care.

Colds, sore throats, school physicals, and monitoring diabetes and hypertension are just a few of the many areas that the APRNs can make it easier for the “newly insured” to get care.

The APRNs won’t solve all of the problems mentioned in the article, but by making it easier for patients to get their primary care problems taken care of, they will solve one large part of the problem.

The highly respected Institute of Medicine which acts as an advisor to the federal government has given its support to the APRNs to independently take care of those types of primary care service for which they were trained.

So far about 22 states have given APRNs the right to practice independently, Connecticut being the most recent.

Dr. Edward Volpintesta practices family medicine in Bethel, CT.

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