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Nurse Practitioners filling the state’s gap in health care

By LYNN LOFTON

Here’s another grim statistic for Mississippi — out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, we’re number 51 in health care. Nurse practitioners believe they are playing a vital role in the state’s health care and want to help lift us from the bottom. The Mississippi Association of Nurse Practitioners (MSANP) has a goal to change the state law that requires NPs to have collaborative agreements with physicians to practice, which they maintain will bring more NPs into the state’s health care system.

Wanda Stroupe

Tina Highfill

Ann Glasgow

“Collaborative agreements are not required in 22 states and we lose some of our nurse practitioners to other states,” says Wanda Stroupe of Ripley. “We impact health care so much because of our nursing skills, but there are big pockets of needs that we need to fill. With a change in state law we could have a full-range practice. But, we always run into road blocks in the state legislature.”

She adds that nurse practitioners love working with physicians and will continue to do so. “We respect what they do and counsel with them every day.”

Tina W. Highfill, president of the MSANP, says her 400 members and other NP s around the state are definitely helping improve health care, especially in rural areas. “We see it every day and want to continue and expand the high level of care nurse practitioners bring to the state.”

Beverly Glasgow is semi retired now but saw first hand how nurse practitioners help when she worked in the Delta town of Marks providing care during weekends. “There’s an older population with more needs and nurse practitioners can provide access to health care,” she said. “We collaborate to get that total care and provide continuity of care. We can relieve overburdened physicians in these areas. I think we put the pieces of the puzzle together.” She also has participated in the state’s telemedicine program that was placed in rural areas.

Stroupe, who’s been a nurse practitioner 16 years and has a background of 22 years as a nurse, owns a clinic in Ripley with five full-time employees. The town has a small hospital with limited services and is 35 miles from New Albany and 50 miles to Tupelo. She and her clinic work closely with North Mississippi Medical Center where she serves on the board of directors. She also serves on the boards of several other professional organizations. She and Glasgow have  doctorate of nursing practice degrees, and Glasgow said many of their members have that degree.

“At our clinic we provide integrated care; we really take care of people, seeing patients from two days old through the end of life,” Stroupe said. “Nurse practitioners are trained to do that, but like any health care provider, we know when a patient needs a specialist. We stick to our scope of practice.”

With elderly patients making up 25 percent of her practice, Stroupe says the clinic sees a wide range of patients needing a wide range of care. She became a nurse practitioner because she liked the idea of having the ability to do more. “I wanted to diagnose and treat,” she said. “I had worked in a variety of settings, learning at the bedside. I have strong assessment skills and wanted to expand on what I already knew, so it was the next step for me.”

After her children were grown and she’d been a nurse 25 years, Glasgow decided to become a nurse practitioner. Her physician husband was running a busy clinic in Oxford and needed an extra pair of hands. “There’s such a need and I wanted to give adequate care,” she said. “We can take more time with patients, explaining things such as special diets and how to take medication. We fill the gap.”

Stroupe says there are very few things nurse practitioners can’t do and that they are always striving to improve patient care. “We learn to touch patients and interact because nurses’ bedside and clinical training start early,” she said. “Additionally, there are many things nurse practitioners are trained to do and do well every day.”

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About Lynn Lofton