Houston Matters

Could Nurse Practitioners Get More Authority, in Order to Solve Physician Shortage?

Primary care physicians are in short supply. A study out earlier this month from the Association of American Medical Colleges indicates that by 2025 the deficit of doctors will be somewhere between 46,000 and 90,000. Part of what is causing this shortage is the growing number of people signing up for the Affordable Care Act […]

Primary care physicians are in short supply. A study out earlier this month from the Association of American Medical Colleges indicates that by 2025 the deficit of doctors will be somewhere between 46,000 and 90,000.

Part of what is causing this shortage is the growing number of people signing up for the Affordable Care Act and the growing number of baby boomers. In a city like Houston, with the largest medical center in the country and a growing aging population, this is an area of concern.

One of the ways suggested to help with the workload is to activate nurse practitioners to their full capacity. Right now in Texas, nurse practitioners are not granted full practicing authority. It has to be approved by a supervising doctor, and they can't work independently of that doctor unless he or she grants permission.

Recently the state of Nebraska signed a bill into law that allows full practice authority, and that brings the total of states allowing this to 19. Will Texas add its name to that list this legislative session?

Houston Matters Edel Howlin spoke with Dr. Laura Rooney, Director of UT Health Services and Dr. Jeffrey Spike, medical ethicist with the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at the UTHealth Medical School about this topic. She started by asking Dr. Rooney what is the current scope of practice for a nurse practitioner.

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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