Most nurses and APRNs believe that it is a welcome development to give APRNs independence to practice. In every profession you will find those who are very proficient, and those who are not so proficient.
From the MD’s point of view, the main issue is the training of APRNs, which they consider as inadequate for independent practice. The physicians with the extensive training they received in medical school still consult with other physicians when they are faced with difficult medical issues. My primary care physician makes referrals to urologists, cardiologists, pulmonologists, gynecologists, pharmacists, and he consults with another physician in his office. APRNs will be able to do the same if they encounter a case that is beyond their scope of practice.
The issue here is giving greater access to care to the public. Due to the busy schedules of doctors, the APRNs will bridge the gap by offering patients easy access to primary care, instead of making them wait for weeks or months before getting a doctor’s appointment.
I have to confess that for the past few years, I have seen the nurse practitioner in my doctor’s office. She is exceptional, very thorough, spends enough time with me discussing my condition and options. My doctor was always very busy. He did not even have enough time to listen to me.
By giving the APRNs independent practice privilege, the public will be given more access to primary care. More people will have routine physical exams, and more time will be made available to provide education on health prevention and promotion strategies.
This will prevent unnecessary emergency room visits and reduce the money spent on complicated medical procedures that could be avoided by routine checkups.
I opened up a discussion on this topic in a barber shop in Hartford about two weeks ago. Some of the guys there did not know the difference between an APRN and a doctor. One guy stated, “I don’t care what their qualifications are as far as they take care of me.” Another guy said that it will be less intimidating for him. He further stated that there is always a stress about going to see his doctor. Most of the time, he said, the doctor does not even pay him any attention. He walks in and out and tells the nurse to hand him a prescription and that he never takes the drugs because he thinks the guy does not know what is wrong with him.
Health care is more than ordering tests and handing prescriptions to patients. It is supposed to be holistic, taking into account the whole person. With the current number of primary care physicians available, it is impossible for the physicians to devote a lot of time to each patient.
Our health care system in the state of Connecticut will benefit if APRNs are allowed to practice independently and to the full extent of their professional knowledge. Greater patient satisfaction will be achieved, and we will save money on health care by reducing emergency room visits and complicated medical procedures that could have been prevented by greater access to primary care.
Hartford resident Ikechi Dike, R.N., is a caseworker with Masonicare.