In the evolving world of healthcare, advanced practice clinicians are poised to play an essential role in helping fill physician shortages at hospitals and other medical centers in underserved areas.
In medicine, institutional goals use three primary measures – clinical, financial, and operational – and there is a tradeoff if you have limited resources and staffing. For instance, increasing patient satisfaction (clinical) may decrease throughput (operational) as you devote more time and energy to each person. On the other hand, increasing your facility’s capacity (operational) can be costly and undermine the hospital’s finances (financial).
Filling Gaps in Primary Care
Advanced practice clinicians (APCs), such as nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs), and certified nurse-midwives, can help fill gaps in primary care, particularly in rural areas. Here is a look at how adding locum tenens APCs can help medical institutions improve with minimal tradeoffs:
Clinical goals encompass positive patient outcomes and a high level of client satisfaction. Studies have shown NPs can effectively create better patient outcomes and optimize healthcare delivery.
Even though NPs don’t always have the same education and experience as physicians, they provide patients with more personalized service, supporting a patient-first approach. In addition, with the additional time they can devote to each patient, NPs can help them feel valued, understood, and empowered to make informed decisions about their care.
Within a patient-first approach, NPs can meet the need for preventative care and wellness, critical components of both individual and population health that are more cost-effective than treating acute conditions.
From an operational perspective, Advanced Practice Clinicians can help hospitals and medical centers process patients more efficiently using a modern “crew pit” method, as opposed to the outdated “cowboy” method.
In the earlier centuries, medical practitioners operated in a solitary way. They could do so because there was limited medical knowledge to be had and few treatments available. However, with the expansion of the medical industry – both structurally and in terms of public knowledge – it is no longer feasible or optimal for medical practitioners to operate individually or like cowboys. Instead, pit crews – groups of individuals with varied talents, skills, and knowledge – are essential to effectively delivering healthcare and addressing the diverse needs of patients in the modern age.
Physician Assistants, for example, can’t and shouldn’t fill the shoes of nurses and doctors. However, they provide their unique value by helping with home visits, delivering healthcare in rural areas, and reducing wait times.
Additionally, Advanced Practice Clinicians and other locum workers can address the systemic problem posed by the shortage of physicians. They are seen as “shortage relievers” who can share the workload and oversee delivering much of the routine care normally provided by primary doctors.
In addition to clinical and operational goals, medical institutions also must meet certain financial measures, such as being fiscally responsible and turning a profit. Incorporating APCs into your staff can help you address these concerns without substantially trading off in other areas.
In recent years, the number of PAs has increased significantly, with further growth projected into the coming years. With the increasing supply of certified PAs, medical institutions will be pressured to offer high wages to attract valuable labor.
Additionally, Advanced Practice Clinicians are also more likely to work part-time positions, eliminating the need for full benefits and decreasing costs.
The Value of Adding Advanced Practice Clinicians
With their unique skills and requirements, Advanced Practice Clinicians have the capacity to benefit hospitals across the nation. While APCs can help address the physician shortage, another solution is for physicians to be better distributed across both urban and rural areas. Taking locum tenens positions allows both APCs and physicians to fill healthcare gaps in underserved areas or at medical institutions that are striving to improve their clinical, operational, and financial standing.
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Editor's note: This post was originally published on March 4, 2020, and has been updated for accuracy and timeliness.