Nurses to Help Fill the Physician Gap

Posted at: 08/14/2013 6:59 PM
By: Katie Eldred

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Experts estimate nearly 32 million people will have access to health insurance as the affordable care act goes into place. That means there will millions more "new" patients for doctors to treat.

This will have a huge impact on health care providers. More patients means a need for more doctors.

One of the problem is there's already a physician shortage in some rural areas.

"You’re going to have pockets of shortages, I think in Rochester we’re fortunate we don't have a shortage, so we don't see as much of it in our area," said Dr. Mark Wilbur of OMC in Byron.

Dr. Wilbur says there are a lot of changes that are on the way with affordable care act. He says one will of course be more patients.

"It's going to be hard fill that gap quickly because training physicians takes a while, so we are going to have to increase the number of mid-levels that we have," said Dr. Wilbur.

Meaning many clinics may turn to the help of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who depending on their additional training can do many of the functions of a family doctor.

"The broad picture will be helping with the load of patients when we're busy, it's helpful to have people who need to see a physician see a physician and people that can see the mid-level see a mid-level," said Dr. Wilbur.

While no one knows the exact impact that having more people insured will have on the clinics. What they do know is they need to be ready.

"Obviously it's always changing in medicine, but in the last few years it's really increased and I think a lot of that is because of the affordable care act, so yea you got to be on your toes," said Dr. Wilbur.

Experts estimate the United States is already short more than 9,000 primary care doctors. That number is expected to rise to more than 60,000 by 2025.