Life Support: One easy solution to a rural healthcare crisis

Posted on 22 November 2019 at 3:36pm

COLUMBIA - Hospitals all over the country are struggling to stay open.

This has left patients in rural areas struggling to get the care they need. Now experts are telling us there could be a simple, and essentially free solution that has worked in many other states.

The solution is already working in the system, nurse practitioners or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Currently in Missouri, they are unable to practice to the fullest extent of their education.

The Missouri Foundation for Health estimates that by lifting restrictions on nurse practitioners could save Missouri $1.2 billion over ten years.

Valerie Bader,an associate teaching professor at the MU School of Nursing and Advanced Practice Registered Nurse has seen the problem get worse.

"We have a crisis right now in rural Missouri where there aren't enough people providing primary care," Bader said.

Bader says its important to maximize resources with the initial visits and access to those facilities.

"If you can have access to good primary healthcare in rural areas and anywhere really you lower the amount of illness among the group of people and its less expensive." Bader said.

97 percent of the counties in Missouri are facing a primary care provider shortage.

"There are all kinds of restrictions that 23 other states don't have, and what we find in states with large rural populations just like Missouri without the restrictive regulations they have healthier people and healthcare costs less, " Bader said.

Dave Dillon, the spokesperson for the Missouri Hospital Association agrees.

"What our concern is, that we are not maximizing on a resource because of restrictions."

This shortage is affecting even more residents as health facilities are disappearing around rural Missouri.

"Hospitals have a stake because many clinics in rural Missouri that are run are extensions of the hospital. So if we can't maximize the ability of caregivers in facilities, it's bad for us and bad for those we are serving," Dillon said.

Bader said about 3 out of 4 doctors support this idea, but the others have a basic reason for opposing it.

"Physicians don't want to lose what's normally considered their space, and in some ways that make sense," Dillon said.

They also say those nurse practitioners would move to a more urban area to practice if allowed the freedom.

"APRN's are more likely to stay in a rural area unlike physicians and that's one of the problems in the rural healthcare crisis is that we don't see physicians staying in those rural areas," Bader said.

Dillon's experience is telling him it’s a move that just needs to be made.

"You shouldn't jeopardize people's health or the future workforce because we clearly have a significant need when it comes to practitioners," he said.