Nurse practitioners train to help fill primary care gap - WFLA News Channel 8

Nurse practitioners train to help fill primary care gap

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -

A shortage of primary care physicians is presenting some unique challenges for both the medical community and patients in North Carolina and across the country.

Locally, Campbell University's new medical school will help train new doctors. In the meantime, nursing school programs, like the ones offered at the University of North Carolina, are stepping up to try and fill the gap with nurse practitioners.

"If you don't have enough primary care providers, there are people who will go without care," said Debra Barksdale, associate professor and director of the UNC's Doctor of Nursing Practice program. Barksdale has been a nurse practitioner for 26 years.

In the next couple of weeks, the UNC nursing school plans to train nurse practitioners to do more clinical patient care. And Barksdale said there is no shortage of applicants.

"We're just not able to find enough spots to accommodate all the potential students we'd like to have," said Barksdale.

It's the same with medical schools. Interest is on the rise, however funding is down. But money isn't the only problem.

"There's a faculty shortage. Faculty are getting older, we call that the graying of the faculty," said Barksdale.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, nearly half of all doctors in the United Sates are over the age of 50. By 2020, when millions more of Americans will have access to health with President Obama's health care plan, the association says there will be a shortage of 92,000 doctors.

Studies show the cost of training 12 nurse practitioners is the same as putting one doctor through medical school.

"Nurse practitioners are not trying to be doctors, we're not training them to be physicians," said Barksdale. But Barksdale says they hope to fill the gap.

Studies show the cost of training 12 nurse practitioners is the same as putting one doctor through medical school.

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