It is undeniable that Americans need more primary care providers. Primary care providers, those who we used to call our “general practitioners” or “GPs,” work to keep us healthy, performing physical exams, ordering and interpreting screening tests, managing acute and chronic illnesses, from strep throat to hypertension.

However, many physicians choose to go into specialties, such as neurology, endocrinology, and others. And that is a good thing, as their training and education prepare them to do an excellent job of managing serious illness. That raises the question, what healthcare provider can lead healthcare teams to provide high quality cost-effective primary care to all populations across the lifespan? The answer is, the nurse practitioner.

Nurse practitioners, also known as APRNs, for advanced practice registered nurses, are registered nurses who have gone on for advanced education and training at the master’s and doctoral levels. They are licensed and qualified to diagnose, treat, and prescribe for all populations, from infants to the elderly. Nurse practitioners can provide all primary healthcare services. Multiple research studies into the health care provided by nurse practitioners have consistently found it to be excellent.

Connecticut is fortunate to have reasonable laws governing the practice of nurse practitioners. After two years of collaborative practice with a physician, an experienced nurse practitioner may practice autonomously. This is a good way to expand access to sorely needed primary care services in underserved areas. Connecticut is also home to a significant number of university programs preparing nurse practitioners.

Nurse practitioners are part of the solution to the primary care shortage in Connecticut and across the nation, working within, and leading healthcare teams to keep Americans healthy.

Joy Elwell is an associate clinical professor at the University of Connecticut.

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