TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Your nurse may soon be your doctor. A combination of the health care overhaul and the shortage of primary care doctors has states considering giving more authority to nurse practitioners. Nurses with advanced degrees are fighting for the right to practice on their own.
It is a problem, and some in the East Texas medical community are afraid it is only going to get worse. "When everyone has health care coverage, it will definitely place a burden on the health care system in providing coverage," said Jeri Brown, a nurse practitioner for Trinity Clinic.
Brown said professionals in her field play a large role in health care. With doctors in short supply, 28 states may let these nurses practice independently. Brown said, "We are definitely trained in assessment, diagnosis, treatment of patients...they estimate that nurse practitioners are able to do at least 85% of what a family practice physician does."
In Texas, nurse practitioners are currently required to have a supervising doctor. Doctor Melissa Gerdes said there is a difference in doctors and nurses with advanced degrees. "It boils down to the training level. Physicians on average, when they come out of residency, have put in 20,000 hours of training. When nurse practitioners come out of training programs, they have about 2,000 hours of training," said Dr. Gerdes.
More than 100 nurse practitioners have graduated from UT Tyler in the past 14 years. Teleshia Coleman is one of them. She said she wants to practice in a rural community, but isn't ready for complete independence.
"In the long run, I would like to be able to practice in a clinic on my own, but I would still like to have that supervisor relationship with a physician that I can call," said Coleman.
Whether nurse, doctor, or student, these women say the demand must be filled so patients can get the medical attention they need.
Texas Nurse Practitioners is an organization of 8,000 nurses. They say Medicare pays nurse practitioners about 85% of what it pays doctors.