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Advanced Practitioners: Important Members of Your Health Care Team

Mar 22, 2014 / Health Advice

You may have noticed that when you go to your doctor’s office you often see an advanced practitioner instead of a doctor. That’s because advanced practitioners are becoming increasingly important in the day-to-day health care of millions of Americans. One reason advanced practitioners have become so popular is that they can successfully handle many of the tasks that doctors normally do, freeing up physicians to concentrate on more complex diagnoses and treatments.

Advanced practitioners first became popular in the mid-1960s, when there a shortage of primary care physicians in many areas of the country. To help address the problem, forward-thinking physician Dr. Eugene Stead, Jr. of Duke University started a unique program to train physician assistants (PA). Dr. Henry Silver along with Loretta Ford, RN of the University of Colorado started a program for similar reasons to train nurse practitioners (NP).

The early PA program consisted of corpsmen from the Navy, while the NP program enrolled skilled nurses who were willing and able to take on the challenges of diagnosing and managing illness. Over the years, each profession has flourished, and it’s now common to see NPs and PAs practicing in virtually every area of medicine.

In 2010, approximately 56,000 NPs and 30,000 PAs were practicing in primary care in the United States, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Due to the advanced training these health care professionals receive, they have collectively become known as advanced practitioners (AP).

Although many people now have experience receiving care from an AP, they may not understand the level of education and training an AP has. APs are required to have at minimum a master’s level degree. They undergo rigorous clinical training and continue to attend seminars to remain up-to-date on current medical concerns. Like physicians, many APs train in specialized programs after graduation called residency programs; but most are trained and grow in the practices they join. Under the supervision of physicians, APs utilize their training, life and professional experiences, and the resources around them to provide high-quality, affordable health care. Most APs work in team settings and function as valuable resources in ensuring that patients get the care they need when they need it.

National studies have demonstrated high quality and patient satisfaction with APs. My personal experience has confirmed this – patients like, respect and feel their health care needs are addressed by the AP. Patients often wonder, however, what happens when a medical case becomes more complicated.

Like any health care professional, APs must know their boundaries. When a case is beyond their scope, APs are required to consult with a physician or refer the patient to the appropriate provider. Some APs have their own patients, while others support physicians in managing their patient panels.

APs are a common and essential facet of health care today. It’s important for patients to understand that when they see an AP, they are in the good hands of a highly trained health care professional who works in close partnership with physicians and other health care professionals to provide the best, most timely care possible.

By Karen Fleming, M.S., NP-C, an Advanced Practitioner at Reliant Medical Group’s Auburn location.

Advanced Practitioners: Important Members of Your Health Care Team

About Karen Fleming, NP

A graduate of Framingham State College and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Karen Fleming has been involved in medicine for over 24 years and has been a Nurse Practitioner since 1995. Practicing in the department of Internal Medicine in Auburn, she works with a team of doctors and nurses helping patients with their urgent and chronic healthcare needs. She has enjoyed working in this role for over 12 years. One of the things Karen...

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9 Responses

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  1. Posted by Judy

    I agree that Karen Fleming, NP-C in the Auburn facility is the most thorough, kind and caring person that has taken care of my medical needs. When you are talking with her you know she is listening to your every word. No questions are unanswered when you leave her office and you never feel hurried by her to get to her next patient. You know she cares about you and your medical needs. I always tell her that I trust her with my life. I am lucky to have her as my PC. In fact she is mine, my son and my daughter’s PC as well.

    March 27, 2019 11:00 pm Reply
  2. Posted by Afsaneh Lomax

    Thank you for this article. It emphasizes the important role APs play in our health care. I have had an AP as a Primary Care Provider for the last 15 years. I have received the best care and feel very confident with every diagnosis and treatment plan my AP set for me. There has never been a doubt in my mind about her assessment, diagnosis, or planning related to my health. I never felt the need to want to switch care to a MD. During each visit, my AP takes the time to educate me about my health and answers all of my questions. She keeps me involved in the decision making process, which empowers me to become engaged and care about my own health.

    Thank you APs for taking such good care of your patients

    May 1, 2014 4:28 pm Reply
  3. Posted by Alain Deflandre

    I think it is a great Idea. That way you can see someone QUICKLY without waiting for MONTHS on an app’t.

    May 1, 2014 10:55 am Reply
  4. Posted by Ronald

    Do we pay the same for a AP as the doctor? Shoulden’t our co-pay be less

    May 1, 2014 8:55 am Reply
  5. Posted by Timothy DeLorme

    Very well said from the best AP on the planet,
    Thank you for the last 20 years of diagnosing my Heath issues !

    Timothy DeLorme ,
    Auburn MA.

    April 30, 2014 9:42 am Reply
  6. Posted by Mary Duhamel

    This sounds like an excellent idea. I look forward to reading future articles. Thank you.

    April 30, 2014 8:13 am Reply
  7. Posted by gloria lavallee

    I agree with your article. Have had appointments with 2 so far and they were very good

    April 29, 2014 9:20 pm Reply


    April 29, 2014 7:15 pm Reply
  9. Posted by Robert Tripaldi

    I have been seeing Karen Fleming at the Auburn Facility for 10 years now and I would not give her up for anyone else because she is thorough and she is a very kind and caring person. She is professional in every thing she does but she does something a lot of Doctors don’t, She actually listens to me. I have had some very serious health problems and she has always taken care of them well beyond what I had come to expect.
    Karen Fleming is the best and I am glad that Reliant Medical Group has her.

    April 29, 2014 4:32 pm Reply

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