Let’s allow nurse practitioners to cure America’s doctor shortage

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

During the first week of October, America celebrates National Primary Care Week, honoring the difficult work that family physicians, pediatricians, and other primary care doctors do every day to provide routine medical care. But, unfortunately for us, there aren't enough of them to care for our country's growing medical needs. Over 84 million Americans, one-quarter of the U.S population, live in counties with a severe primary care physician shortage, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). From Colusa County in California to East Delaware County in New York, patients are suffering from this debilitating doctor shortage.

There is a way to bridge this gap: allowing the qualified professionals known as nurse practitioners (NPs) to perform these important services. Much like doctors, NPs are trained to provide a variety of primary care procedures including diagnosing illnesses, treating conditions, and prescribing medications. Yet despite America's growing need for more primary care providers, states around the country have laws that prevent NPs from treating their patients. In 28 states, lawmakers subject NPs to outdated regulations that prohibit them from providing services they are fully certified to offer, like annual exams and pap smears. In other instances, states will mandate that nurses practice under the supervision of a physician, which limits their capacity to serve remote communities.

RELATED: Say no to Democratic Socialism's enormous price tag

Meanwhile, America's doctor shortage is worsening. While America's aging baby boomer generation is entering retirement and demanding more health care services, many doctors are retiring and hanging up their lab coats. Researchers at the Association of American Medical Colleges estimate that by 2030 there will be 49,000 fewer primary physicians than the country will need to serve our growing health care needs. Ultimately, patients seeking basic primary care will have to travel farther, wait longer, and pay more.

Supporters of NP restrictions claim that allowing nurses to perform primary care would endanger patient health. However, these claims are baseless—nurses can perform nearly all the services of a primary care doctor at the same high standards we expect from physicians. A 2013 review of 26 peer-reviewed studies in the journal Health Affairs found that patients treated by NPs enjoy the same health outcomes as those served by physicians.

The reality is that relaxing state restrictions on NPs would dramatically expand access to high-quality primary care. Since NPs need five fewer years of training to practice than physicians, nurses can more swiftly deploy to under-served areas. And surveys conducted by the American Academy of Nursing found that nurses are far more likely than doctors to operate in rural communities and in nontraditional settings—like urgent care and in-store clinics—allowing them to reach patients who lack reliable access to a physician.

Patients save money on healthcare by going to an NP, too. Because nursing degrees cost substantially less than a physician's medical degree, NPs charge significantly less than doctors, passing along their savings to patients. According to research by economist Morris Kleiner of the Brookings Institute, preventive care for children costs 16 percent less in states that actually allow nurses to freely practice the medicine they're trained in.

The federal government is all too aware of the negative implications caused by the restrictions on NPs.

The federal government is all too aware of the negative implications caused by the restrictions on NPs. In fact, it has recommended that states remove such laws. In 2013, President Obama's HHS estimated that states could reduce America's primary care shortage by two-thirds—simply by loosening laws that prevent NPs from treating their patients independently. And earlier this year, HHS Secretary Alex Azar urged lawmakers attending the American Legislative Exchange Council conference in New Orleans to end their "barrier[s] to new competition and lower-cost [NPs]."

Medical experts and policymakers across the political spectrum recognize that NPs can make a big difference in the lives of millions of Americans who are struggling to attain primary care. Allowing these qualified nurses to independently serve patients is a bipartisan solution that states should adopt—finally granting enough medical care access to those who need it most.

Charlie Katebi is a Young Voices contributor and a policy fellow at the Millennial Policy Center.

Whether it's a 'War on Christmas' or just progressivism run amok, the song 'Baby It's Cold Outside' has been firmly in the crosshairs this holiday season. Here are just a few of the headlines making the rounds:

Should radio stations stop playing 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'?

They range from the previous as questioning and then roll right into the following and assume facts not in evidence.

'Baby, It's Cold Outside,' Seen As Sexist, Frozen Out by Radio Stations

It may be seen as sexist but according to one radio stations polling, only about 5% do. Then they go from saying it's sexist to straight up claiming it as a rape song.

Radio Bans 'Baby It's Cold Outside' Over Claims It's A Rape Song, English Teacher Explains Its Real Meaning

And then they just flat out call for its retirement.

Is it time to retire 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'?

The left might think they are woke and on the right side of history in the wake of the #MeToo movement — but how shocked do you think they'd be if they knew Glenn beat them to the punch over a decade ago? Don't believe me? Take a listen to this clip from our audio vault from 2008.

How long until we follow in Europe's footsteps?


Christmas should be a time of happiness and celebration the world over. But in Europe, it is now the season of terror. The sounds at Europe's famous Christmas Markets of "Merry Christmas!" and laughter are rapidly being replaced with the sounds of "Allahu Ackbar!" and gunfire. Two years ago ISIS attacked a Christmas Market in Berlin, killing twelve and injuring another forty-eight. And tragically, the sound of automatic gunfire and the chant of "Allahu Ackbar!" was heard at another Christmas Market in Europe yesterday afternoon… this time in France.

Two people are dead and thirteen are battling for their lives right now in Strasbourg, France. The attacker walked into the city's Christmas Market shortly after 8pm, shouted "Allahu Ackbar" and began shooting indiscriminately. He then proceeded to battle the police in four separate locations while he fled the scene. As of this moment, he still hasn't been caught. The city of Strasbourg is on full lockdown, and France's terror level has been elevated.

RELATED: Paris pandemonium: Here's what happens when people feel ignored

A man of Middle Eastern descent has been identified as the suspect. He was already on a terror watchlist and had been deported from Germany recently with twenty criminal convictions. He's well known in Islamist circles and was reportedly radicalized after spending time in prison. Apparently he was too radical for the Germans… but not for France.

What is it going to take for progressive governments like France to wake up to their failed policies? Nearly 300 people have been killed in terror attacks in France over the past three years. 300 in three years! But despite that, the French government refuses to address immigration, they continue their open border policy and - more importantly - they refuse to listen to their people when they try and tell them that they're scared to death over this issue. Instead they get a lecture on Islamophobia… "that's the real problem."

Outrage has replaced baseball as our national pastime.

This is one of the reasons why the Yellow Vests are tearing the country apart. The government refuses to listen to their fears on terrorism, unchecked immigration, open borders, the failing economy, high taxes and out of control spending. Wow... do these issues sound at all familiar? How many years behind France are we? Just listen to ourselves.

Outrage has replaced baseball as our national pastime. People have lost the ability to engage in peaceful protest. Street demonstrations have turned into street brawls. Have you seen the images from places like Portland lately? European governments are losing the social contract with their people. After years of broken promises and outright lies from Washington, how long before that happens here?

The Congressional reckoning for the giants of Silicon Valley continued yesterday. This time it was finally Google CEO Sundar Pichai's [Soon-dar Pa-shy] turn in the hot seat. There were protesters. There was Alex Jones and Roger Stone sitting beside each other. Good times were had by all. Pichai remained soft-spoken and calm throughout the grilling. It was his first time testifying before Congress. And you know what they say about your first time – that you should never admit to having even a hint of anti-conservative bias. We start there right now…

In his opening statement, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said:

I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way. To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests.

RELATED: Still want to believe Google isn't evil? Then don't listen to THIS interview

Congressmen from both parties were not convinced of Google's innocence. For three and a half hours, they let Pichai have it from all angles. Republican Iowa Representative Steve King asked Pichai to disclose the names of over 1,000 Google employees that work on Google's search algorithm, so that their social media accounts could be examined for liberal bias. Pichai did not hand over the list.

Meanwhile, at least one Democrat, Tennessee's Steve Cohen, feels Google has the opposite problem. He complained to Pichai that Google overuses conservative news organizations in their search results. Pichai insisted that Google employees do not favor certain news outlets over others.

Pichai saved his most artful question-dodging for the China issue. Lawmakers wanted to know about "Project Dragonfly," the communist-friendly version of Google's search engine that the company has been working on in collaboration with the Chinese government. Pichai said:

It's a limited effort internally currently.

When asked whether Google is in current discussions with the Chinese government about Project Dragonfly, Pichai replied:

…I'm happy to be transparent to the extent we take steps toward launching a product in China." Which sounds like a definite maybe.

But then, Democrats got back to the much more urgent Google issues at hand. Like Zoe Lofgren of California who asked why Donald Trump's photo pops up when you Google the word "idiot."

And to think your tax dollars helped subsidize this enlightening Q & A.