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posted: 4/5/2014 1:01 AM

Give APNs, NPs a bigger role

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As the deadline to sign up for Obamacare passes, the country faces yet another significant health care issue: lack of providers to meet the increased demand.

Numerous articles regarding the Affordable Care Act have identified how the influx of individuals and families now with health care has not been met with an equaled increase in providers. The American Medical Association's answer is to recruit more medical students into primary care. While this may partially meet the demands, it is costly and time-consuming. Yet, there is an answer to increasing the amount of health providers right now: advanced practice nurses including nurse practitioners.

Who are they? APNs are licensed by their respective states, board-certified by their professional organization, and practice in their trained specialty, i.e. family medicine.

Primary care is where the largest health care gap exists in the patient-to-provider ratio. While several states, including Arizona and Ohio, support independent APNs, many others, including Illinois, remain ill-informed to the benefits of APNs and require them to work with a physician, thereby limiting how the APN practices.

I have practiced as an NP for 18 years in primary and acute care. While living in Arizona for eight years, I enjoyed the ability to practice independently as my board certification specified.

What does independent practice mean? It is the ability to meet the patient's needs, including diagnosing, ordering tests, and prescribing medication.

It is time to offer Illinoisans accessible, affordable health care, healthy visits, management of chronic health conditions like diabetes, and the ability to find acute care in a timely manner. Illinois needs to support independent practice for APNs. Illinoisans deserve to have accessible, quality, affordable health care.

Michelle DiGiovanni