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The Primary Care Shortage and Using Full Practice Authority to Fill the Gap

Posted about 2 months ago

Currently, there is a shortage of medical professionals to provide primary care throughout the United States and in Illinois. Rural areas are especially short on primary care providers, and the shortage is only becoming worse as more physicians are choosing specialty practice due to financial reasons and practice limitations. 

ISAPN’s President, Raechel Ferry-Rooney, believes that access to primary care is extremely important. 

“Primary care is critical to good health care. The primary care provider should be the gatekeeper for all specialty and test referrals for a patient. The shortage means that this role cannot be sufficiently fulfilled.”

At ISAPN, we believe that full practice authority is critical to filling the gaps in primary care in Illinois. Read on to learn why. 

Primary Care Shortage Affects Patients Health

As Raechel Ferry-Rooney stressed, it is imperative that patients have access to primary care. While this lack of access may seem like an abstract issue for those who live in populated areas, it is a real problem that affects real people. 

“It can be difficult for the average person to obtain the care they need,” said ISAPN member, Dr. Melissa Bogle. “There is often a waiting time or inability to receive services in a timely manner. Quality of providers may also be a concern since there are less options to choose from.”

Debra Lowrance, a Certified Nurse Midwife, agrees. “Lack of access is a large problem. Many rural or underserved areas do not have sufficient access to care for prenatal because often rural areas cannot afford to have multiple OB GYN providers.”

Beyond this, insurance and transportation are also issues for patients. 

“The type of insurance one has is a factor,” said member Patricia A. Hess. “Some patients have a certain type of Medicaid insurance that most health care institutions refuse to take. Many of these people have to utilize the ER since there is no other provider to take them on. In addition, many individuals have to drive many miles for their healthcare and if they lack transportation, they are unable to get where they need to go.”

Full Practice Authority: Providing Access to Care

One way that states can address the primary care shortage is through full practice authority, which Illinois recently finalized. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Full Practice Authority is the authorization of nurse practitioners (NPs) to evaluate patients, diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests and initiate and manage treatments—including prescribing medications—under the exclusive licensure authority of the state board of nursing.” 

ISAPN members point to many benefits of full practice authority in Illinois. 

“Full practice authority allows providers to travel to and practice in rural and remote areas where the average provider is not willing to go,” said Dr. Melissa Bogle. “It removes unnecessary oversight which just adds burdensome regulatory and financial detractors to provider practice.” 

“With full practice authority, we will get more APRNs who are willing to start their own business and reach out to the smaller communities or those communities that lack providers,” said Patricia A. Hess.  “For states that are implementing this, they need to ensure that all barriers are taken away that will keep APRNs from doing their job. That is what will truly help combat this shortage.” 

ISAPN Advocates for Full Practice Authority

The Illinois Society of Advanced Practice Nursing supports the implementation of full practice authority to reduce the primary care shortage. In the coming years, we expect that this will be proven once APRNs in Illinois begin setting up their own clinics in rural areas. 

Whether you are a doctor, advanced practice registered nurse in training, or member of the public, if you have questions or comments about Full Practice Authority, we would love to hear from you! You can find our contact information here