The New York Times today reports on the trend of nurses continuing their educations to obtain doctoral degrees in nursing. Physicians view the trend as another salvo in a longstanding scope of practice turf battle with nurses and some experts don’t see it doing anything to improve health care in the United States:
“Everyone’s talking about improving patients’ access to care, bending the cost curve and creating team-based care,” said Erin Fraher, an assistant professor of surgery and family medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “Where’s the evidence that moving to doctorates in pharmacy, physical therapy and nursing achieves any of these?”
Perhaps not immediately. It will be interesting, however, to watch the role of nurses as primary caregivers evolve as more Americans gain access to medical coverage as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) continues to be phased in over the next several years. A major concern that there will be too few primary care and family physicians available to serve those who gain access to care under the PPACA. In response, there could be a major shift in medical care in which nurses become primary care providers with medical doctors serving as surgeons and specialists (as many doctors already do) treating patients with multiple complex and rare medical conditions that exceed the training and expertise of nurses.
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