Physician Assistants (PAs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) roles have expanded in the general field of healthcare delivery. In many health systems and even in solo family practice offices, the PA or NP helps stretch the physician provider by taking on many of the same tasks.
In the field of addiction medicine, there has been some debate about the role of PAs and NPs. This article examines some of the latest developments in the field that have led to the expansion of these mid-level provider roles.
How have these medical professionals advanced addiction treatment for an increasing patient population? What duties can both PAs and NPs perform in an addiction medicine practice?
In addiction medicine today, PAs and NPs can assist with the patient assessment, testing, developing treatment plans, educating patients, and writing prescriptions. These roles help drug and alcohol rehab and pain management facilities stretch their scope of services to keep up with a burgeoning patient population.
The laws governing these mid-level professionals in addiction medicine continue to expand.
Some of the recent developments include:
It is clear that PAs and NPs are needed in addiction medicine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) point out that overdose deaths from prescription opioids have risen four-fold since 1999. To fight this battle the addiction medicine community must work to enable NPs and PAs so that they can join opioid treatment facilities and their physician providers in doing what is necessary to save lives. Allowing the waiver that lets mid-level providers prescribe buprenorphine is just the first step toward giving these professionals the tools they need at a time we need them the most. Physicians Practice calls it an “all hands on deck” approach. Given the size of the opioid epidemic, we need all the help we can get.
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