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Tx Panhandle nurse practitioners helping bridge the gap physician shortage

Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 6:11 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - The physician shortage is predicted to grow in the next 10 years, which could mean bad news, especially for those living in rural areas.

The good news is, the number of nurse practitioners has grown in the last few years.

“We have a population that is getting older, and so the need for primary care providers is going to increase,” said Holly Jeffreys, head of the nursing department at West Texas A&M University.

To make matters worse, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts that by 2030 there will be a deficit of more than 40,000 primary care physicians.

A problem that’s even worse in rural areas.

According to Callie Land, family nurse practitioner at Family Care Panhandle, family nurse practitioners have been picking up the slack in care.

“We take care of kids six months all the way to 100 plus and then family practice, we see grandparents, parents, teenagers, just across the whole spectrum,” said Land. ”We do family planning, we do wellness exams for females, just a little bit of everything.”

Nurse practitioners can assess patients, diagnose and prescribe medication.

According to experts NPs are more likely to practice in underserved areas, increasing access for Medicaid and uninsured patients.

“We’re nurses first of all so, we’ve been around patients for a long time as a nurse and really caring for the patient and holistically at what the patient needs,” said Jeffreys.

Since 2016, the nurse practitioner program at WTAMU has grown 35 percent.

The university says it’s currently working with entities and rural districts to provide them with nurses.

“For students to fulfill their last semester there and then become employed there and hopefully increase retention at those facilities,” said Jeffreys.

WTAMU also has an online RN to BSN program.

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