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Nurse practitioners at the forefront of healthcare reform

President Obama’s sweeping healthcare reform bill signals “a new era for nurse-led health care.”  Nurse-managed clinics, the rural and urban primary care clinics run by nurse practitioners, are a key part of Obama’s plan to extend healthcare to all Americans.

Nurse practitioners and nurse-led clinics are expected to effectively manage the healthcare needs of underserved populations, as they’ve done so well for so long.  An increased emphasis on nurses as primary care providers will also help ease the effect of the shortage of primary care physicians.  According the American College of Nurse Practitioners, the number of NPs in the United States increased to 158,348 in 2008 — up from 141, 209 in 2004.

Canadian columnist Andre Picard argues that increased utilization of NPs could help ease his country’s primary care crunch as well.  “Much..routine care — vaccination, blood tests, wound care, dietary counseling and so on — does not necessarily need to be provided by a doctor.  The work can and should be done by a nurse practitioner,” Picard writes.  “They are not mini-doctors.  They are maxi-nurses.”

What role do you think nurses should play in healthcare?  Are nurses’ talents being effectively utilized?

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Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN

Jennifer is a professional freelance writer with over eight years experience as a hospital nurse. She has clinical experience in adult health, including med-surg, geriatrics and transplant; she also has a particular interest in women’s health and cancer care. Jennifer has written a variety of health and parenting articles for national publications.

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