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More Primary Care NPs Graduate in Pilot Program

By Dave Gilmartin

A pilot program has demonstrated how Medicare support for clinical training for nurse practitioners can increase their numbers and help alleviate the shortage of primary care providers, the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing said.

The $200 million Graduate Nurse Education (GNE) Demonstration project used Medicare funding to help recruit practicing physicians and nurse practitioners as mentors for NP students so they could meet their training requirements. Most of the funds were used for preceptors in community-based settings.

“There are plenty of qualified applicants to university NP programs but admissions are limited because we don’t have enough primary care clinicians to supervise student learners in their practices,” said Linda Aiken, PhD, RN and co-author of the study published in Health Affairs.

The universities that partnered with five hospital systems across the country as part of the pilot were all able to “significantly” increase the number of primary care NPs they graduated, according to Penn, which was the largest participant, teaming up with nine universities with NP programs.

“The GNE Demonstration shows that longstanding challenges in health care like the shortage of primary care providers can be successfully addressed when health care organizations in communities band together for the common good,” said co-author Regina Cunningham, PhD, RN, Chief Executive Officer of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “Working together in Philadelphia across health systems, public clinics, private medical practices, and schools of nursing, we were able to recruit a larger number of practicing physicians and nurse practitioners to mentor NP students to help them meet their clinical training requirements of 500 or more hours thus enabling nursing schools to accept more student NPs.”

An estimated 80 million Americans, one in four, do not have a primary care provider, said Aiken. The shortage is particularly acute in rural areas. The GNE Demonstration showed the cost efficiency of training NPs, one of the study’s co-authors argued.

“The cost of clinical training for one nurse practitioner in the GNE Demonstration was about $47,000 compared to the cost of clinical training for a primary care physician of over $157,000,” said first author Joshua Porat-Dahlerbruch