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Nurses to play a greater role in healthcare

Savinh Pouv wears a white coat, treats patients and is considered a primary care provider at the Los Angeles County clinic where she works — but she is not a doctor.

That does not matter to Maria Avalos. What matters, the 55 year-old homemaker said, is that when she comes to the Long Beach clinic to get treated for her diabetes, she always sees Pouv, a nurse practitioner.

“Before, they sent me from one to another,” doctor, Avalos said during a visit last week. “I like her —she checks me well, she has my records, she checks my medications and changes them if I need.”

California is among 23 states that allow nurse practitioners to act as primary care providers without a doctor’s supervision, a move aimed at stemming a shortage of physicians and reducing costs.

Now the nurses are poised to take on an even greater role as Los Angeles County and other health systems develop “medical home” models of care that expand the number of primary care providers, including nurses, to meet the requirements of national healthcare legislation, reduce unnecessary hospital visits and cut costs.

Proponents say allowing such nurses to work as primary care providers can ensure that patients get quick, cheap access to care. But some doctors worry that the nurses overreach, doing more than they are trained to do.

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posted in: California
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