The Oregon Center for Nursing (OCN) released a new report on nurse practitioners with surprising and important implications for public health policy makers, health care leaders, nurse educators and the nursing workforce. With a noticeable shortage of primary care providers throughout the state, assumptions have been made that trained and licensed nurse practitioners (NPs) could potentially fill the necessary gaps in care. However, our new research suggests Oregon’s current NPs aren’t working in primary care settings. Understanding WHY and WHAT to do about these circumstances is crucial to fending off a potential crisis in the availability of basic health care in Oregon.
Oregon licensure laws allow NPs to perform all aspects of primary care, but according to the new report, only 25% of NPs are actually providing primary care in the state. The rest of the more than 3,000 NPs in the state are in specialty clinics, emergency rooms, hospitals or other settings not considered primary care.
Many nurse practitioners are educated and qualified to provide the comprehensive primary care that Oregonians deserve, but there are impediments to that happening. Before Oregon’s policy makers start relying on nurse practitioners to fill the primary care gap, there are issues that must be addressed and questions that need to be answered. Though there is anecdotal evidence about reasons practitioners are avoiding primary care (i.e., adequate reimbursements, hospital privileges, and competitive pay), more research must be done about the motivations and barriers practitioners face.
There are many convenient ways to access OCN’s research report, “Primary Care Workforce Crisis Looming in Oregon: Nurse Practitioners Vital to Filling the Gap, But Not Enough to Go Around.”
OCN is a nonprofit organization created by nursing leaders in 2002. OCN facilitates research and collaboration for Oregon’s nursing workforce to support informed, well-prepared, diverse and exceptional nursing professionals. Recognized by the Oregon state legislature as a state advisor for nursing workforce issues, OCN fulfills its mission through nurse workforce research, building partnerships, and promoting nursing and healthcare. For more information about OCN, please visit www.oregoncenterfornursing.org.
Jana R. Bitton, MPA