Omaha, NE - The Association of American Medical College predicts that by 2020 there will be a shortage of 90,000 doctors including 45,000 patient care physicians.
Industry experts cite several reasons such as a growing number of retiring doctors, an aging number of baby boomers needing more care and a greater medical care demand due to the Affordable Care Act.
Some people believe this shows an increasing need for medical care providers such as nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners have a nursing background and may hold either a master's degree or a doctorate.
Dr. Kathy Morris at UNMC has been involved in getting two recent federal grants for nurse practitioners. They involve emergency care in small towns. (Click on these links to learn more about the grants: Advanced Rural Hospital Care Program and Advancing Rural Emergency Acute Care)
"We're usually trained to work in the primary care clinic, taking care of patients of all ages. But in rural areas, especially rural Nebraska, where you don't have as many providers you have to be a master of all different skills," Morris said.
Money from the grants goes toward some equipment but mainly funds experts in various fields to work with students to give them hands on experience and teach them real life scenarios.
Dr. Juliann Sebastian is the Dean of UNMC's College of Nursing. She agrees there is an increased demand for primary care clinicians. She says, "there's a lot of work to be done, but there's a lot of good people such as nurse practitioners who can fill a huge gap by providing care and ensuring that the population remains healthy, able to take care of themselves and enjoys a high quality of life."
We should note that the role of a nurse practitioner varies by state. In Nebraska, for example, they must have a practice agreement in place with a physician. Some groups would like to see that change.