Whatever does or doesn’t change in American health care, one thing remains constant.
There aren’t enough doctors in small towns and rural areas of Texas.
Many nurse practitioners would be happy to step into the breach if they could.
The key phrase here is, “if they could.”
Texas State law limits how much nurse practitioners can do, but other states don’t.
And they are reaping the rewards.
It’s tough enough getting some quality time with your doctor in a big city.
Well, you can double that for the more rural parts of Texas.
So most of the visit, you’ll be spending time with a nurse, who’ll draw blood, run tests, listen to symptoms, and so forth. But some want to do more.
“We do get to see patients, examine patients, order labs and xrays, and we can do referrals. But, in the state of Texas, you are required to have a supervising physician to do any of those things.”
Right now in Texas, a nurse practitioner cannot practice independently,” says Melisia Marten, a nurse practitioner. “They must have a doctor as a supervisor, even for basic health care.
17 other states allow it, and Texas is experiencing a brain drain.
“You know, they are appealing to nurse practitioners who want to have their own practice,” she told us. “You know, if you want to hang out your own shingle and have your own practice, it would be beneficial for you to move to one of those states.”
In addition, the number of nurse practitioners is on the rise, while the number of primary care physicians in Texas is declining.
And many feel those gaps in rural health care could be plugged…if they were allowed to do it.
“The problem for Texas is that we are ranked 47th out of 50 in the supply of primary care physicians,” Melisia says. “And the state demographer estimates that our population will increase by 12-1400 people per day. And this shows that there is a great need for primary care in the state of Texas.”
As you might expect, physician groups say the key to solving the rural medical shortage is more doctors.
Easy to say, tougher to do.