The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American College of Nurse Practitioners will merge the organizations effective in January. With approximately 40,000 members, the new organization, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, or AANP, will serve as the largest professional membership organization in the country for nurse practitioners of all specialties.
With the nation facing a growing shortage of primary care physicians and some 30 million Americans gaining health insurance in 2014 due to healthcare reform, it is no secret that the nation is grappling with a strained healthcare system. If nurse practitioners are serious about expanding their role in health care, they need to speak with one voice.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 67 million people in the United States live in a primacy care shortage area. “And for Americans who do have a regular physician, only 57% report having access to same or next-day appointments and 63% [have] difficulty getting access to care on nights, weekends or holidays without going to the emergency room. … 20% of adults waited six days or more to see a doctor when they were sick in 2010,” Marketdata Enterprises noted in a study released in late September. It is estimated that the primary care physician shortage will reach about 60,000 by 2015.
Recognizing the high-quality health care that nurse practitioners can provide, strides are being made to ensure that nurse practitioners can practice to their fullest potential. For example, a recent survey of health insurers, specifically Health Maintenance Organizations, found that 75% of HMOs credential with nurse practitioners as primary care providers, an increase over previous years. In addition, Massachusetts lawmakers recently passed a massive healthcare bill that brings expanded scope of services, in such areas as monitoring of chronic diseases and prevention and wellness offerings, to patients of limited-service clinics.
Such developments are no doubt significant, but the reality is that if nurse practitioners are serious about expanding their role in health care they need to speak with a unified, powerful voice.