News & Press: NP News

Expanding Role for Nurse Practitioners

Monday, February 10, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Marty Buonato
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The 'baby boom' generation – nearly 40,000,000 strong – is aging and many are living with a variety of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The Affordable Care Act, the national health care plan designed to increase the accessibility and affordability of health insurance, will provide coverage of pre-existing medical conditions to those who were previously uninsurable. The number of U.S. medical school graduates specializing in primary care has dropped precipitously in the past two decades, resulting in a dearth of family practice physicians.

Amid all this turmoil, Ivy Alexander remains calm and focused. Alexander, clinical professor and director of advanced practice nursing in UConn's School of Nursing, is encouraged about the expanding role of nurse practitioners in an increasingly complex medical landscape.

"As medical professionals," she says, "we are recognizing that on a national level, advanced practice nurses [APNs, those with master's degrees and board certification in a specialty area] are part of the solution to the health careaccess crisis. The only way that patients are going to get the care they need is if all parts of the medical team, including APNs, midwives, physician's assistants, physicians, and others, come together as partners."

She continues, "It's not that nurse practitioners are going to replace any other clinicians. That's not our goal. But advanced practice nurses are extraordinarily well prepared to provide primary care. They are trained in managing multiple types of health problems and in promoting a healthy lifestyle. With the current challenges inpatient care, I can only see the role of the nurse practitioner increasing."

Alexander's enthusiasm for nursing as a profession is partially what brought her to UConn from her previous position as professor of nursing and director of the adult, family, gerontological, and women's health primary care specialty at Yale."

I looked at this position [at UConn] as an opportunity to work with a really dedicated faculty," she says. "They are superior clinicians who are devoted to their students and to the growth of our various programs – at all academic levels, from the bachelor's degree up through doctoral degrees in nursing. Our instructors, almost all of whom are also in clinical practice, reflect the commitment the School of Nursing has made to its students."

She says she was also attracted by the fact that UConn offers both master's level and doctoral level entry into its advanced practice programs. "That makes UConn different from many other nursing schools and it allows students to pick a course of study that really fits their career objectives. The growth of these programs has been steady, and this year we have 21 DNP [doctoral] students and 119 master's level students – that's quite an achievement."


Sheila Foran

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