Physicians Assistants, Nurse Practitioners Take On More Primary Care Duties

In the final part of a three-part series on primary care, NPR reports on physicians assistants and nurse practitioners taking the place of physicians as deliverers of primary care. "Unlike physicians in primary care, the number of physician assistants and nurse practitioners are on the rise. According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, there were 74,100 physician assistants in practice in 2008, the most recent census available. It's projected to be the second-fastest-growing health profession, after home health aides, in the coming decade. As of 2010, there are 135,000 practicing nurse practitioners, according to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, with an additional 8,000 being added to the ranks each year. And nowhere are they needed more than in rural areas. According to the policy journal Health Affairs, 21 percent of the nation's population lives in rural America, but only 10 percent of the doctors practice there" (Rovner, 8/27).

NPR's Talk of the Nation also focused on the primary care doctor shortage. On the program, reporter Julie Rovner discusses her recent series and "the New America Foundation's Dr. Kavita Patel explores some potential solutions" (Conan, 8/30).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.