Advanced Practice Nurses Lead the Charge In Cardiovascular Clinics as Physician Shortage Grows

Heart disease is the leading cause of death the world over; particularly in the United States where over a quarter of all deaths annually are the result of heart disease. Treating and caring for patients suffering from one of many varieties of heart disease is of the highest priority for medical professionals at every level. However, recent studies have shown that only 10 percent of outpatient care facilities for cardiovascular health are appropriately equipped and staffed.

A study was undertaken by a group of doctors, led by Dr. Salim Virani of the DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston, Texas. Their research was collected from 600,000 patients treated in 2012 and found that cardiac care in the U.S. is suffering.

Published in the most recent edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the study also goes on to predict a substantial shortage of doctors in the years to come as more and more physicians retire. It predicts a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians and an equal number of specialists within the next five years if trends continue as expected.

Since this gap has the potential to spell disaster – not just for cardiovascular patients but also for patients of every kind – Virani’s research proposed a solution. By taking advantage of the expertise of nurses and nurse practitioners, facilities will be able to fill some of the gaps in their care.

Nurses are qualified to give expert patient care, and nurse practitioners can provide diagnostic services and prescribe medicine. The care that the average heart disease patient needs is well within the scope of a nurse practitioner. The study found that patients treated by nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants received the same quality care as those treated by a doctor.