Let advanced nurses help improve health care [SC]
"South Carolina, with its estimated 3,600 primary-care physicians, ranks 40th among the states with just 77.5 physicians per 100,000 residents (nationally, the number is 90.1 per 100,000). Moreover, there is a strong bias in the distribution of those physicians to urban or suburban areas, and 42 of our 46 counties are medically underserved. One county (Lee) has no physicians at all.
This supply problem is compounded by the fact that medical students increasingly are choosing specialties outside of the primary-care field, as our society places an emphasis and increased value on specialized skills. Primary-care providers have been the backbone of the rural health-care system, and there are ever fewer of them to go around.
So how can we increase supply? One way, we think, is to better utilize our state's estimated 3,500 advanced-practice registered nurses. These nurses hold at least a master's degree in nursing, supplemented with advanced education and clinical training to autonomously assess, diagnose and manage a patient's health care at the primary-care level.
The problem is that South Carolina laws severely restrict the health-care services these nurses are able to provide. These restrictions impose limitations on delivering care and prescribing certain medications, referring patients for diagnostic care and certifying hospice or long-term care for patients."