MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - They see patients, write prescriptions and even wear a white coat. But they're not doctors, they're nurse practitioners; considered to be the next best thing.
"Physicians are finding it most cost effective to hire nurse practitioners versus another physician, nurse practitioners can see as many patients as they do."
Dr. Walter Pugh says, "It frees up a lot of your time and extends your practice quiet a bit, it allows you to see more patients in less time."
Case in point - nurse practitioner Terry Watkins. Patients saturate her daily appointments at a non-profit medical outreach clinic near Baptist South in Montgomery. Without Watkins, uninsured patients that need simple medical attention would be divided among 8 other doctors.
"We can work in a variety of settings, medical outreach is an example of a great place for a nurse reactionary to come and make a difference."
Offering a source of stability in a changing medical field.
Most primary care physicians are welcoming nurse practitioners in their clinics with open arms.
"Nurse practitioners are on demand now," states Watkins.
This new wave of health care providers consider themselves to be the solution to the current healthcare crisis - starting in the shrinking field of family medicine.