Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Nurse Practitioners

To make sure patients’ basic medical care is met, hospitals are increasingly turning to “nurse practitioners” instead of doctors, a trend some worry about.

I think there’s a lot of potential for these practitioners though. Their salaries are much lower on average than doctors, so they’re cheaper. And it seems to me they can do much, if not all of the work doctors can do. Usually a nurse practitioner must get a bachelors of science in nursing to first become a registered nurse. Then he or she has to complete a state-sanctioned program in various areas such as family practice. It seems such a person is fine at diagnosing and treating strep throat. I’m just not sure it makes sense to pay someone $150,000 to do that.

Allowing nurse practitioners to take on a greater role might help us solve for the shortage of primary care physicians in many parts of the country and expand access to healthcare. It would also bring down healthcare costs, so more people can afford to go see the doctor or purchase insurance.

Of course, we still need all kinds of specialists and surgeons, so there will always be plenty of need for doctors who go to medical school.


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  2. Great post. I think having nurse practitioners makes perfect sense. At this stage in medical technology, it is all about specialization. Nurses should be trained to do complex procedures as eight years of medical school is unnecessary if all you do is stitch wounds all day. It's as much a question of efficiency and supply as it is about costs. Doctors are like mechanics and it makes no sense to teach them how the whole car is assembled together when their individual station just involves changing oil.

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