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California Considers Expanded Roles for Nurses in Primary Care

Wednesday, May 8, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Melissa Moody
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April 22, 2013 (Capital Public Radio) Some nurse practitioners in California already see patients without a doctor in the room. Patients like Anastacia Casperson.

Casperson has struggled with homelessness and drug addiction, Now, she's at Glide Health Services, a clinic in San Francisco's Tenderloin district.  

Clark uses the visit as an opportunity to ask about other health matters - like her efforts to quit smoking. After a half hour visit, Casperson left with a prescription. She says she's been coming to this clinic for a few years.

"They have compassion for a client. They have understanding for a client," Casperson says. "I like the nurses here. Because they're like one big family, and they all work together.

This clinic is run by nurses with advanced training. Nurse practitioners - or NPs - in California have at least a masters' level education.

A physician visits 12 hours a week, to sign forms and consult on difficult cases. A bill in the California legislature would allow nurse practitioners to provide primary care independently. Supporters say that would enable more people to get care in inner cities and rural areas.

"It's difficult to get primary care physicians to work in a place here because the pay is low often times and there's more money in specialty practice," says clinic manager Karen Hill. "The Housing is incredibly expensive here if you want to raise a family. And the population is difficult."

But Hill says this clinic wasn't started because of a lack of physicians. It was established with help from a nursing school, seeking to serve a vulnerable population.

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