KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Hospitals Fight For Primary Care Docs As Bad Nurses Allowed To Continue Work

News outlets report on a variety of health workforce issues.

Orlando Sentinel: For primary care specialties, residency programs fight to capture the attention of potential residents who are in high demand.

Because many students opt not to go into primary care, residencies for such positions are plentiful, and students often have their pick of where to go to practice. "Florida faces the third-largest family-physician shortage in the nation. During the next decade, the state will need 1,200 to 1,800 new primary-care physicians to keep pace with its aging-population growth. … Although family medicine needs doctors the most of any discipline, the field has the toughest time convincing medical students it's a worthwhile investment. Students with six-figure student loans can instead opt for higher-paying specialties such as cardiology or radiology and earn salaries double to triple that of primary-care physicians. … Even though studies have shown that the cost of health care goes down in communities with strong primary-care delivery, and the health of the community goes up … legislators and insurers have been slow to recognize that value." Florida doesn't have a state loan-forgiveness program like many other states (Cevallos, 7/15).

In the meantime, ProPublica/USA Today reports that there are "significant gaps in regulatory efforts nationwide to keep nurses from avoiding the consequences of misconduct by hopping across state lines." There is a partnership among 24 states that tries to get good nurses where they're needed, but "[u]nder the decade-old partnership, a license obtained in a nurse's home state allows access to work in the other compact states. But an investigation by the non-profit news organization ProPublica found that the pact also has allowed nurses with records of misconduct to put patients in jeopardy. In some cases, nurses have retained clean multistate licenses after at least one compact state had banned them. They have ignored their patients' needs, stolen their pain medication, forgotten crucial tests or missed changes in their condition, records show." There's no central licensing for the nurses, so "[o]utside the compact, each state licenses and disciplines its own nurses. But within it, states effectively agree to allow in nurses they have never reviewed" (Weber and Ornstein, 7/15).

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