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Physician Assistant, Nurse Roles in Pediatric Care Assessed

Studies question if they have the numbers or experience to make up for pediatrician shortfall

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) -- With a shortage of pediatric physicians looming, nurse practitioners and physician assistants may increasingly be called on to deliver pediatric care, but these health care providers may lack the numbers and experience to fill the breach, according to a series of reports published online Oct. 18 in Pediatrics.

Gary L. Freed, M.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues surveyed 1,000 family nurse practitioners (FNPs) to gauge how much of their practice was devoted to caring for children. Sixty-six percent of responding FNPs said they currently cared for children, but only 9 percent said children made up more than 75 percent of their population. In a second study, Freed and colleagues surveyed 1,200 pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) and found that 59 percent of PNPs worked in primary care and 64 percent did not provide inpatient care.

Finally, in a third study, Freed and colleagues used data from the American Association of Physician Assistants and the U.S. Census Bureau to map the distribution of pediatric physician assistants (PPAs, who work under the supervision of physicians); 650 PPAs were surveyed. The researchers found that most states have fewer than 50 PPAs, and that most PPAs (57 percent) work in pediatric primary care.

"Physician assistants can, and do, play an important role in the care of children in the United States. However, the impact of that role is limited by the relative scarcity of physician assistants currently engaged in pediatric practice," write the authors of the third study.

Abstract - FNP Study
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Abstract - PNP Study
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Abstract - PPA Study
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