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Polaneczky: nurse practitioners provide excellent primary care to the poor; why not to everyone?

November 13, 2003 -- Today Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky devoted her column to the growing role of primary care centers run by nurse practitioners, stressing that these highly skilled, cost-effective providers could be critical in a state reportedly suffering a shortage of primary care physicians.

Polaneczky focuses on the Falls Family Practice and Counseling Network at Abbottsford, located in a public-housing development. This "bustling" center was founded in 1992 by "national pioneer" Diana Torrisi, and it includes three other nurse practitioners and a total staff of 19. These graduate-prepared nurse practitioners "do everything primary-care physicians do," but are able to spend more time with their patients.

Nationally, Polaneczky explains, there are over 100 such nurse-managed health centers established by academic institutions or community non-profits, serving over 1 million patients in 30 states. About 25 are in Pennsylvania, four in a network run by Torrisi. These centers tend to serve poor areas with little access to quality care, but their achievements are impressive. According to data from the National Nursing Centers Consortium (NNCC), compared to those in more traditional care settings the nursing center patients see their practitioners more often, use emergency departments 15% less, and enjoy shorter hospital maternity stays, lower prescription costs, and more effective preventative child health programs. One reason nurses are able to achieve such good results is their focus on prevention and health management.

Polaneczky wonders whether "this excellent model of health-care delivery [could] be adapted for the mainstream," and she describes efforts to do that. She quotes NNCC's executive director Tine Hanson-Turton, who notes that "[t]he role of nurses has always been silent, so it may take time for people to understand how important they are in maintaining excellent health care delivery." Polaneczky suggests that given the attention to nurses striking a local hospital, she would say "we've already gotten the idea." The Center wishes it could be so optimistic, but it applauds Polaneczky's efforts to be part of the solution.

See Ronnie Polaneczky's article "Nurses make a difference: Practitioners could ease doctor shortage" in the Philadelphia Daily News.

Also see Ms. Polaneczky's Nov. 17 article "MCP strike over standards a lesson for labor," her Nov. 25 article "Nurses are ready to work, but want fair staffing" and her Dec. 19 article "Closure spurs anger toward striking nurses" all in the Philadelphia Daily News.

For her outstanding contribution to the nursing profession, Ms. Polanesczky was awarded one of the Center's Golden Lamp Awards, which are given annually to the best 10 portrayals of nursing in the media.

Ronnie Polanesczky may be sent letters of thanks at


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