Which family physicians work routinely with nurse practitioners, physician assistants or certified nurse midwives

J Rural Health. 2014 Summer;30(3):227-34. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12053. Epub 2013 Dec 15.


Purpose: Facing rising numbers of insured with implementation of the Affordable Care Act, policy makers are interested in building teams of providers that can accommodate a growing demand for primary care services. Nurse Practitioners (NPs), Physician Assistants (PAs), and Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) already augment the physician workforce, particularly in rural areas. Our objective was to determine what physician and areal-level characteristics were associated with working with NPs, PAs or CNMs.

Methods: The sample consisted of a convenience sample of physicians through the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) website in the fall of 2011. We linked these data to demographic and practice information collected by the ABFM and with provider information supplied from the National Provider Identifier file aggregated at the Primary Care Service Area level. Hierarchical logistic regression models were used to determine variables associated with working with NPs, PAs, or CNMs.

Findings: Of the 3,855 family physicians in our sample, 60% reported routinely working with NPs, PAs, or CNMs. In regression analysis, characteristics positively associated with working with NPs, PAs, or CNMs were providing gynecological care (Odds Ratio = 1.23 [95% confidence interval, 1.06-1.42]), multispecialty group practice (OR = 1.72 [1.36-2.18]), any rural setting, and higher availability of PAs (OR = 1.40 [1.10-1.79]). Restrictive NP scope of practice laws failed to reach significance (OR = 0.86 [0.71-1.05]).

Conclusions: This study suggests that the number of family physicians routinely working with NPs, PAs, and CNMs continues to increase, which may allow for improved access to health care, particularly in rural areas.

Keywords: access to care; family physicians; health services research; nurse practitioners; physician assistants.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse Midwives / supply & distribution*
  • Nurse Practitioners / supply & distribution*
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
  • Physician Assistants / supply & distribution*
  • Physicians, Family*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Workforce