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Advanced practice providers offer high-quality care to increasingly diverse patient populations

Penn State Health continues to explore innovative ways to meet the needs of our growing and diverse patient populations, and advanced practice providers (APPs) play an integral role in meeting those needs. With their advanced training and credentials, these professionals expand access to high-quality care, build trust with patients and are a valuable aspect of patients’ overall experience.

The APPs at Penn State Health include certified registered nurse practitioners, physician assistants, certified registered nurse anesthetists, certified nurse midwives and clinical nurse specialists. While APPs provide care to increasingly diverse patient populations, they tend to lack diversity themselves:

  • Certified registered nurse practitioners: The most common ethnicity of the more than 213,000 nurse practitioners in the U.S. is white (77.5%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (6.7%), Asian (6.3%) and Black or African American (4.7%).
  • Physician assistants: Of the more than 126,000 physician assistants in the U.S., only 11.8% are Hispanic or Latino, 11.2% are Asian, and 5.4% are Black or African American.
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists: More than 81% of the approximately 40,000 nurse anesthetists in the U.S. are white, followed by Asian (6.6%), Hispanic or Latino (5.0%) and unknown (3.8%).
  • Certified nurse midwives: The most common ethnicity of the more than 7,000 certified nurse midwives is the U.S. is white (77.5%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (6.7%), Asian (6.3%) and Black or African American (4.7%).
  • Clinical nurse specialists: Approximately 66.0% of the nearly 8,000 clinical nurse specialists in the U.S. are white, 11.5% are Black or African American, 8.9% are Asian and 8.9% are Hispanic or Latino.

The advanced practice providers at Penn State Health are rigorously trained, credentialed and work collaboratively with other health care providers to offer patients the highest level of care possible.

APP Spotlight: Nurse practitioners

Every month, the health system’s Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will highlight how APPs care for our increasingly diverse patient population. This month focuses on certified registered nurse practitioners. A nurse practitioner must first earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing and be a registered nurse before completing a master’s- or doctoral-level nurse practitioner program where they gain more of the advanced clinical knowledge and can diagnose diseases and conditions and prescribe treatments. After this training, nurse practitioners must pass a national board certification exam.

Their patient care responsibilities include:

  • Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions
  • Ordering and performing diagnostic tests
  • Prescribing medications and other treatment approaches
  • Managing the general care of patients
  • Providing guidance on disease prevention and healthy living

Janet Passley-Clarke, a nurse practitioner manager with the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, shared that her first entrance to the nursing field was through her mother. Passley-Clarke has been in practice for more than 25 years after completing her education at Coppin State University in Baltimore, one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), and going on to earn a master’s degree and doctorate in nursing practice. She will soon complete a doctorate in nursing education.

She joined the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute in 2017 and, consistent with national data, was the only person who was visibly diverse. Almost six years later, diversity in the APP management ranks is still limited, although APPs are slightly more diverse now than when she started.

“There is a feeling that there are no diverse APPs out there,” said Passley-Clarke, “but the reality is that recruitment strategies need to be expanded to make sure that diverse populations are being reached.”

The APP leadership at Penn State Health is committed to increasing the diversity of its staff, said Kathy Curci, Advanced Practice director. The team has developed several diversity-related initiatives, including a diversity grand rounds, a focus on diversity recruitment and unconscious bias and microaggression education for supervisors and managers to identify ways to improve the work climate. In addition, the team is eagerly participating in this monthly series to increase awareness of how APPs significantly contribute to providing quality care for our patients.

Next month’s APP Spotlight will focus on nurse anesthetists.

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