As I have reported previously, the total cost of health care in 1960 was about 4 percent of our total GDP. The number we are now approaching is 18 percent. And many forecasts suggest that this number could soar to 25 percent in the next five-to-eight years. Obviously, that’s not going to be a workable number for the nation as a whole, so what might be the solutions to this challenge?
I met recently with Ricki Garrett, who is the Executive Director of the Mississippi Association of Nurse Practitioners, and we discussed some of these concerns, along with other issues.
Ricki grew up in Jackson, earned her Bachelor’s degree from the Mississippi University for Women, her Master’s from Ole Miss, and her PhD from JSU. She began her career as a high school English teacher, but was always active in community affairs, and eventually, she wound up working with the Mississippi Nurses Association, one of the state’s largest trade associations. She also served with the trustees of the College Board, and served as president of the Board. Through her work in education and health care, she was approached to start the Mississippi Association of Nurse Practitioners, which she accomplished in January 2014.
I asked her to talk about how nurse practitioners fit into the overall health care environment, and what the future looks like from that perspective.
“Ninety percent of nurse practitioners are delivering primary care to patients,” she said. “They work across the board, some delivering general care, some specialized care, such as OB-GYN services.”
The growth of nurse practitioners is rapidly increasing.
“For one thing, many physicians are approaching retirement age, and it’s clear that with the increasing demand for health care by the aging baby boom generation, there will be a lack of physicians to provide that care,” she said. “The people who will fill that void will be nurse practitioners.”
She also sees telehealth services, delivered primarily through nurses and nurse practitioners, as being an extremely fast-growing segment of health care throughout the United States.
“Access to quality health care is a major challenge in Mississippi,” she said. “The way to deliver that access will be found in the area of telehealth. As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, so will the ability to deliver quality care in this manner.”
It is the growth in the number and effectiveness of nurse practitioners, along with telehealth, and a much increased focus on wellness, that must be the future of health care.
“We are going to have to educate people on how to improve their own long-term health prospects,” she suggested. “That’s one of the only real ways we can get the costs under control, and we need leaders who will take up and champion the whole issue of wellness, here and Mississippi and throughout the nation.”
Among other things, the MANP has been pushing for legislation that will broaden the practice horizons for nurse practitioners, granting what is known as full practice authority. Many states have this in place now. Information on this can be found on their website at msanp.org, or by calling MANP at (601) 407-3226.
“I really do believe there is a bright future for nurse practitioners in America,” she said. “It would be a great career for young people interested in a career in health care, and it can be a very rewarding field, personally, professionally, and financially.”
It’s very clear that major change is coming to the whole field of health care, and it certainly appears that a major component of that change will be an increasing number of nurse practitioners who deliver access to quality health care.
» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1021.
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