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As more patients seek care from a dwindling number of primary care physicians, some have looked to nurse practitioners as an option. Not everyone, however, thinks they should work on their own.

According to a recent Patient Poll, conducted in early March by Susquehanna Polling and Research and commissioned by the Pennsylvania Medical Society, only 15 percent of those polled thought nurse practitioners should work independently of physicians, instead of collaboratively as they work currently. There are legislative efforts in the state to make them independent.

Boiling Springs Family Medicine physician Dr. Chad Jumper talked about nurse practitioners, what they are and how they work with doctors now.

Q: What is a nurse practitioner and how do they compare to family physicians?

A: “A nurse practitioner is a health care provider who typically achieves a four-year degree in nursing and then another four-year graduate degree before entering practice. They are required to have a physician who supervises their care as needed. With this supervision, nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat medical problems while prescribing medications.”

Q: In what fields can nurse practitioners operate?

A: “With the appropriate training and experience, nurse practitioners can enter almost any field of medicine.”

Q: What is the current law or limitations on nurse practitioners?

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A: “The current state law requires that nurse practitioners have a collaborating, or supervising, physician as part of their team.”

Q: Is there a strain on family physicians in terms of the number of patients? Why or why not?

A: “Many factors put a strain on primary care doctors and their ability to see the increasing number of patients needing care. There are less providers entering primary care while the number of patients with complex medical problems continues to increase.”

Q: What are the pros and cons of allowing nurse practitioners to practice without physician collaboration?

A: “Allowing nurse practitioners more independence could help alleviate the above-mentioned strain on primary care providers. There is debate that this better access to care could come at a cost of lesser quality care. As the poll shows, many people have concerns over this proposed change.”

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