Does Arkansas have enough primary care providers for our citizens in all parts of the state now? Will we have enough to meet future demand? What role are advanced practice nurses (APNs) and physician assistants (PAs) fulfilling in various parts of the state? What is their future role in a patient-centered health care system?
Study results show that although there is an overall primary care physician shortage, much of it is mitigated by physician extenders — advanced practice nurses and physician assistants — who provide direct patient care often under the supervision of, or in collaboration with, a physician. The result is an overall estimated shortfall of about four percent in the statewide supply of primary care clinicians. However, maldistribution of primary care clinicians remains a significant problem. This brief provides information regarding the working relationships between physicians and physician extenders — APNs and PAs — and the statutory and regulatory environment for APN and PA practice. It is intended to inform policy decisions about the health workforce of Arkansas, with a particular focus on the role of APNs and PAs.