Nurse Practitioners Take On Doctors' Roles

On your next doctor's visit you may notice a change in care as doctors workloads increase.  The nurse practitioner in your doctor's office is probably taking on a bigger role when it comes to taking care of you.

Originally, nurse practitioners served mainly as a doctor's assistant.  But that is changing.

Here in the Panhandle region, they are seeing more and more patients and writing their prescriptions.

Care Today Clinic NP Bill Ledford says, "as the baby boomers generation go into their aged years, increased problems occur and more doctor visits are obtained, the physicians, overall the number have been decreasing each year. Medical schools are turning out less and less physicians."

Leaving it to their nurse practitioners to take the reigns.  Ledford says, "generally speaking, the fees are the same, the care you get is basically the same as if you see the physician."

But there is a significant difference in education to become an NP.

Amarillo Urgent Care NP Tiffany Shadle says, "it's a master's program. You have to have an r-n before you can go. It's basically 42 hours beyond a bachelor's degree." Along with 480 clinical hours.

Ledford says patients often request an NP over their doctor because "people who see both nurse practitioners and physicians tend to, on their next visit, would rather see their nurse practitioner because they spend more time with them."

But Ledford says if you request to see your doctor, you will.

The American academy of nurse practitioners says 6,000 new NPs are prepared every year.