Nurse Practitioner Locum Tenens – Today’s Mobile Workforce

Health care today is characterized by a growing demand for services, increased complexity of care, skyrocketing costs and a shortage of qualified professionals. With current reform attempts, many health care facilities are looking for ever more creative ways to battle these issues. As provider shortages have become more severe, a more significant portion of medical staff has become mobile and a majority of medical facilities are using nurse practitioner locum tenens to supplement their clinical staff.

Education and Certification
A nurse practitioner (NP) is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). Their education begins with the study and clinical experience of a registered nurse. If the initial degree is an associate’s, a bachelor’s degree must be pursued. This is followed by a graduate program where he or she must earn either a Master of Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. They must then pass a national board certification in their particular specialty. Nurse practitioners are qualified to treat both physical and mental conditions through traditional means of taking a complete history, conducting exams and ordering and interpreting tests. They can diagnose disease, provide treatment and prescribe medication.

State Regulations
Although regulations do vary from state to state, the field is state regulated nationwide. In some areas, NP’s work independently of doctors, while other states require a collaborative agreement with a physician. The extent of the collaborative agreement requirements also vary from state to state and the duties, responsibilities, treatments and prescriptions afforded to an NP may be different.

Growing Shortage
The United States is experiencing a very severe shortage of physicians. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has projected a shortage of 159,000 doctors by 2025. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) projects a shortage of 149,000 doctors by 2020 and the Heath Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) projects a deficit of 65,000 primary care physicians by the same year. More than 20 states and 21 medical societies have also made similar projections.

Additionally, the impact of the Affordable Care Act and the increase in the number of insured patients, is still unknown. Although the law took some measures to increase the supply of qualified doctors, it is not likely to keep pace with the ever increasing demand. The law did not remove the cap on federal funding for residency training which was set by the Balanced Budget Act in 1997. Until the cap is removed, the shortage will continue to grow. As this happens, nurse practitioner locum tenens will be used more frequently out of necessity.

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