Who is caring for you?

Who is caring for you?

With the number of patients needing medical care steadily rising, hospitals and clinics all over the country are turning to a broader range of medical professionals. This rise in demand, coupled with a limited number of primary care doctors, means that nurse practitioners and physician assistants are taking on a larger role to help meet these demands.

One example of the integration of nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA) in medical practices is seen at Ogden Clinic in Ogden, Utah. Dr. Grace O'Brien, a family physician at the clinic, claims to use both NPs and PAs in an attempt to accommodate the needs of the growing practice. Her primary goal was to allow greater medical accessibility for the Ogden community.

According to O'Brien, the medical professionals work together as a team to balance appointment slots throughout the day and especially during the busy cold and flu season. With this system, patients are not assigned to a specific medical professional, but are instead treated according to the schedule of each member of the team. This leads to greater convenience for both the medical staff members as well as the patients themselves. Although the NPs and PAs are qualified and authorized to make medical decisions for the patients they see, they must have Dr. O'Brien review their findings and approve of their conclusions.

O'Brien indicates that the use of NPs and PAs in the practice is also viewed favorably by the patients, because these professionals are caring toward the patients and spend extra time explaining diagnoses and treatments. Due to the shortage of professionals trained in specialized medical practices, NPs and PAs are especially helpful in a Los Angeles family practices, because they are able to diagnose, treat, prescribe medicine, order tests and follow up with the patients they see. The integration of advanced-practice professionals is not only present in family practices, but also in orthopedic and obstetrics as well.

According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study, the total number of PA positions will continue to rise 10 percent during the next five years. In 2008, there were 79,706 professionals who were eligible to practice as PAs and 78,893 professionals currently practicing clinically as PAs. The National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses estimates there 158,348 nurse practitioners in 2008. With the growing demand for advanced practice professionals and the higher salaries paid to these professions, we can only expect a steady increase of these professions in the future. Always consult your New York doctor to know which type of provider is caring for you.

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