The health care system is facing a shortage of primary care clinicians. Unlike physicians in primary care, the number of mid-level providers, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners are on the rise. A mid-level provider (MLP) is a clinical medical professional who provides patient care under the supervision of a physician.
Mid-levels (also called non-physician clinicians or physician extenders) include nurse practitioners (NP), physician assistants (PA), and CRNAs. Because of the shortage of primary care doctors, more and more people are getting their primary care from nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants. Mid-level providers can help increase a practices’ capacity at a lower cost than hiring additional physicians.
Nurse practitioners and physicians assistants must complete 2-3 years of training after getting their undergraduate degrees. Most states allow physician assistants and nurse practitioners to practice independently, write prescriptions and do many of the things doctors do.
Many hospitals, as well as physician practices, are hiring greater numbers of midlevel providers because financially, the outlay for MLPs is not as high as for a physician. Physicians delegate certain care to PAs, within their scope of practice, which frees up physicians for more complex cases. Nurse practitioners may practice independently in 15 states, and 23 states allow independent practice for NPs with the exception of prescribing medications.