A health care crisis has been building across the country for years. For many reasons, there are increasingly not enough doctors to meet patient demand. A new program at the Carolinas Health Care System is hoping to fill the gap.
Laura Richter is one of 11 fellows in the first cycle of the Center for Advanced Practice program, run by CHS.
"I think nurse practitioners are going to be invaluable in health care, definitely," Richter said.
Britney Hagy says her program was created in part in response to the growing physician shortage. She believes advanced clinical practitioners or ACPs, which include physician assistants and nurse practitioners, are the answer.
"How are we going to increase access and make our ACPs comfortable and confident if ACPs are the answer, which we think that they are," Hagy said.
Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans who have not scheduled doctor visits before will be making appointments.
"It's opened up the doors to so many, but we don't have the manpower right now to take care of that many patients," Hagy said. Also to blame for the physician shortage is the fact that doctors are retiring and baby boomers are demanding more care.
CHS said physicians assistants and nurse practitioners will ease the load for doctors and lessen the wait time for patients in this changing medical landscape, one Nagy says will focus on team-based care.
"A lot of patients will say that if they get to see a provider quicker, in a more timely fashion, then they would prefer a nurse practitioner or PA rather than wait two to three months to see a physician," Nagy said.
The fellows are doing everything hands on, gaining confidence and learning where they will fit best to serve future patients.
"I didn't know if I was fully prepared coming out of my masters program to work in an ICU," Richter said, adding, after this program, she will be.
The fellows apply from all over the country. At the end of the year-long fellowship, CHS will evaluate participants and try to keep them within their system.