Sharing the Mantle of Primary Female Care

Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants

Published in: Journal of the American Medical Women's Association, v. 55, no. 2, Spring 2000, p. 100-103

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1999

by Ian D. Coulter, Peter Jacobson, Louise Parker

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OBJECTIVE: To examine the role that nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) play in women's health care as part of a larger study assessing the use of NPs and PAs as primary care practitioners. METHODS: The author conducted qualitative key informant interviews with providers and administrators at nine managed care organizations and multispecialty clinics. RESULTS: Respondents indicated that although there were a number of reasons these institutions began to hire NPs and PAs, the shortage of women health care providers was an important contributing factor. Many women patients prefer to see same-sex providers, but there are not enough female physicians to meet this demand. NPs and PAs were more interested in preventive care than physicians were. For these reasons, NPs and PAs came to play a central role in the delivery of women's primary care within these institutions. CONCLUSION: Although the number of female physicians is increasing, there is no indication that the importance of NPs and PAs is waning. Rather, they have become valued members of the health care team. Women physicians will most likely be expected to provide primary care in teams with NPs and PAs.

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