More and more states are expanding the scope of practice for nurse practitioners (NPs) to fill in for the growing physician shortage. Currently, sixteen states and the District of Columbia allow NPs to practice independently, rather than under the supervision of a physician. However, many physicians believe that NPs lack the education and training for complex medical decision-making.
NPs maintain that they should be allowed to treat patients independently and point to several studies which conclude that patients who are treated by NPs have similar outcomes to those who are treated under the care of doctors. NPs also point out that in some cases, they receive higher patient satisfaction ratings than physicians. Physicians disagree saying that these studies “fail to distinguish between care provided by NPs independently and care provided under some sort of collaborative relationship with a doctor” and that these studies only track patients for a few months.
Despite their differences, most doctors and nurses interviewed agree that care can be significantly improved when healthcare professionals work together.
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