The Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing will launch a new master’s of science degree in nursing-family nurse practitioner, which will train nurse practitioners and help mitigate the lack of primary care physicians. To start the program, which was recently approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the college is now waiting for the approval of the Texas Board of Nursing.
The Texas A&M nurse practitioner courses are expected to be launch in January 2015 and are going to be available online, with both full and part-time options. In order to complete the master, the nurse practitioner students will provide care to patients near their home locations with the help of a qualified instructor.
“Texas is significantly short on primary care providers,” explained the executive director of the Texas Nurses Association, Cindy Zolnierek. “And we have a growing population, we having an aging population, we have a lot of chronic disease and an extreme shortage of primary care providers. Nurse practitioners can really fill that gap.”
The new master’s of science in nursing-family nurse practitioner program will be joining the approximately 20 other similar nurse practitioner graduate programs throughout the state, as recently noted by College of Nursing dean Sharon Wilkinson. The spring class will include about 20 students, but the dean expects it to grow after the first year. There are currently 190,000 primary care physicians in the United States, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be more than 37,000 new positions needed within the next eight years.
The Association of Medical Colleges believes that more 30,000 primary care physicians are needed in the whole country and that, by 2025, the number could be 65,800. In Texas, the shortage of professionals is even higher than the national average, since there are only 165 primary care physicians for every 100,000 people.
Nurse practitioners perform both the tasks developed by nurses, like thorough assessments, as well as patient diagnosis, treatment, and medication prescriptions. They have more responsibilities than nurses, since they are in charge of patient’s overall care and they are allowed to develop the same tasks as a primary care doctor, depending on each state’s laws. In Texas, a nurse practitioner needs to be supervised by a physician, as it is one of the most restrictive states, according to Zolnierek.
The search for primary care nurse practitioners is becoming more common in the United States since their education training is much less expensive than the training of a primary physician and the quality of the care “is just as good or better than a primary physician care practice,” believes Zolnierek.