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Doctors Reluctant to Expand Nurse Practitioners' Role: Survey
Date:5/16/2013

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- The United States has a shortage of primary care doctors, and some policymakers want to fill the gap by expanding the role of nurse practitioners. But the two professions are engaged in a turf war over who can do the job better, a new survey finds.

The results of the survey were reported in the May 16 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Experts expected some controversy, but said they were surprised at how far apart doctors and nurse practitioners were in their opinions.

The nearly 1,000 doctors and nurse practitioners surveyed were most divided on the question of who gives the higher quality of care: Two-thirds of physicians said if a doctor and nurse practitioner provided the same service, the doctor would do it better.

Perhaps predictably, few nurse practitioners agreed with that. And although 82 percent of nurse practitioners felt nurse practitioners should lead their own practices, only 17 percent of doctors did.

"We weren't surprised that there were differences in their opinions, but we were surprised by the magnitude of the difference," said lead researcher Karen Donelan, a senior scientist at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston.

Dr. David Blumenthal, co-author of an editorial published with the study, agreed.

"It's striking how different their perceptions are, even though they work in the same physical environment," said Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that supports research on health policy.

So what does all of that mean? Blumenthal and Donelan said the divide between doctors and nurse practitioners has implications for how U.S. health care looks in the future.

Based on a number of studies, Americans' demand for primary care providers is straining the limited supply. The Association of Ameri
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