The value of nurse practitioners

June 25, 2011

The June 20 front-page story “Primary care shifting to hospitals” focused on physicians while ignoring other important groups of primary-care providers in this country. The ability of nurse practitioners to make significant contributions to alleviating the health-care crisis this nation faces continues to be underreported and underappreciated by those who remain wedded to the outdated belief that primary care is best provided by physicians.

As early as 1979, the Congressional Budget Office reviewed findings of numerous studies on nurse-practitioner performance in a variety of settings and concluded that nurse practitioners performed as well as physicians with respect to patient outcomes, correct diagnosis, management of medical conditions and frequency of patient satisfaction. Since then multiple studies and meta-analyses have confirmed either equivalent or higher outcomes for care provided by nurse practitioners.

With a shortage in providers of primary care anticipated, why not encourage the use of nurse practitioners whose recognized strengths in prevention, counseling and early intervention are needed by all?

Elizabeth Hawkins-Walsh, Washington

The writer is assistant dean of the School of Nursing at Catholic University.

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