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Nurse Practitioners Reducing Costs, Expanding Care

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- "Do you want to see the doctor or the nurse practitioner?"

It's a question more and more Americans are hearing when they call their primary health care provider, and the trend is growing. That's because advanced practice nurses -- those who have education and clinical practice experience beyond that required of a registered nurse -- are taking on new roles that put them on the front line of primary and preventative health care.

The reason goes directly to the bottom line.

"The skyrocketing cost of health care has changed the focus of medical practice to that of health promotion and wellness," explains Sharon Wilkerson, assistant head for graduate studies at Purdue University's School of Nursing. "That's where the advanced practice nurse can really make a difference as a provider -- and the numbers we see indicate that the nation currently needs an additional 100,000 primary care providers to meet desired levels of care."

The American Nursing Association estimates that between 60 percent and 80 percent of primary and preventative care traditionally done by doctors can be handled by a nurse less expensively.

"It's not because the quality of care is different, but because of the basic economic factors involved," Wilkerson says. "Doctors have much higher overhead in terms of equipment and facilities, liability insurance, and the cost of their education."

Nurse practitioners are qualified to handle a wide range of health-related issues, including the diagnosis and treatment of common minor illnesses and injuries. They can prescribe medications, order and interpret lab tests and X-rays, and counsel and educate their patients.

Besides providing a lower-cost alternative to seeing a doctor, nurse practitioners can benefit patients in other ways as well.

"For the most part, a physician's income -- particularly that of a general practitioner -- will fluctuate depending on the numbe
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Contact: Sharon Bowker
sharon_bowker@uns.purdue.edu
765-494-4013
Purdue University
28-Jan-1999


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