Background Paper

No. 76

Tapping the Potential of the Health Care Workforce: Scope-of-Practice and Payment Policies for Advanced Practice Nurses and Physician Assistants
July 6, 2010


Robert Cunningham, Consultant


Expanding coverage and increasing delivery of team-based care are likely to entail a growing role in the
health system for advanced practice nurses (APNs), physician assistants (PAs), and other nonphysician clinicians. These professions have already grown rapidly and have increased access to primary and specialty care, especially in rural and other underserved areas. This background paper provides an overview of the role of APNs and PAs. It reviews the primary features of the training and credentialing of these health professions, including the impact of public policies and market forces on their growth and deployment. It describes variations in state scope-of-practice policies and efforts to change them. Using a few brief examples, it also looks at the practices of APNs and PAs in the context of delivery system organization, reimbursement policy, and health care reform.

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