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Are Nurses the Solution to the Nation’s Critical Shortage of Doctors?


By Contributing Author

There has always been a deficit in the number of primary care doctors in the United States but in recent years this shortage has been skyrocketing. Many critics blame Obamacare and the caps being placed on treatments due to Medicare and Medicaid legislation in response to the Affordable Care Act, but this doesn’t tell the whole story.

A very big part of the shortage is due to the high cost of med school and the low rate of pay entry level General Practitioners and family doctors receive. When entering the field of medicine, it is much more lucrative to become a specialist which is why so many young men and women go the extra mile to specialize is some field other than General Practice.

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Expanding Their Dreams

While there doesn’t seem to be a huge shortage of specialists, there is indeed a shortage of primary care physicians so nurse practitioners with a master’s degree are becoming more and more prevalent within the profession. Where it had once been the dream of every nursing student to go as far as becoming a registered nurse, some with a specialization, it is now more common for nursing students to aspire to becoming a nurse practitioner. Why? Because the pay is so much better!

Easier to Obtain a Masters than a Doctorate

With a shortage of doctors and many nursing programs already taking four years to complete, nurses find that getting a master of science is no big deal if it means a much higher grade of pay. They can work as an RN and study for a master of science in nursing online, making it no great hardship to get that advanced degree. Doctors, on the other hand, have to study much longer and do not have the option to take their entire course of study online as nurse practitioners do.

The Increasing Role of Nurse Practitioners

Whether you believe that Obamacare is responsible for the shortage of doctors (because of ceilings put on services resulting in lower pay) or that young men and women are simply being drawn to higher paying specializations, the reality is that nurse practitioners have become the new GP without the med school certificate! No, they are not as highly trained and do not need to do their internship but for all intents and purposes, nurse practitioners do everything a GP does, including prescribing medications with the only major difference being they need to work under the charge of a physician.

With fewer doctors because of lower pay scales and greater numbers of nurses seeking that M.S. in nursing, there seems to be a trend towards nurses as the solution to the shortage of doctors. While some RNs study for four years ending with a bachelor’s degree, some complete a two year program with the final two of four years spent getting that master’s degree online. It’s easier to become an NP than a GP, there are no two ways about it so nurses are filling the gap. Will this trend continue? Probably so since it doesn’t seem like the conditions leading to the shortage of doctors is set to abate at any time in the foreseeable future. So then, yes, nurses do seem to be the solution to the shortage of doctors in the U.S.A. and elsewhere around the world.



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