Nursing project will improve access to care

(Herald Sun) It is not unusual these days, on a visit to a medical office, for a patient to come face-to-face with an advanced practice nurse, rather than a primary care physician.

This is because the number of primary care physicians is in decline, while the demand for health services is increasing, and will continue to do so, particularly with the advent of health care reform.

That’s what makes it such welcome news that the Duke School of Nursing will be part of a four-year, $200 million project that will sharply increase the number of advanced practice nurses who will provide primary care. Advanced practice nurses include nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists.

The project will train advanced practice nurses to work in underserved areas. Duke is one of five hospitals that will participate in the project, and will double the number of advanced practice nurses to be trained. Two hundred and sixteen additional students are expected to be enrolled in four years.

“We are putting more advanced practice nurses on the front lines of our health care system and further strengthening and growing our primary care workforce,” said Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

“With today’s investment, we’ll put more nurses on the ground in communities across the country, shortening waiting lists for appointments, (boosting) community health centers and decreasing delays from discharging patients from hospitals,” Sebelius said.

The sensible goals of the project include improving access to health care for those who need it, ensuring high quality care by expanding the number of nurses who can deliver primary care, and managing costs effectively.

Students will train at sites in Duke’s health care network, including Lincoln Community Health Center, Walltown Neighborhood Clinic, Lyon Park Community Clinic, and others.

The CEO of Duke Health System called the announcement a major step for the future of health care delivery for the state and beyond.

This project is an important one for the Duke School of Nursing, and its impact will be extensive, if all goes according to plan. With all of the changes in health care, there is no time to waste in providing better access to primary care nurses.