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      Say 'ahh' -- It's nurse practitioner week

      Next time you say "ahh" when visiting your family nurse practitioner, make sure you also tell them "thank you".

      "If we didn't have nurse practitioners and they weren't allowed to function as they do," said Family Nurse Practitioner out of Panhandle, Holly Jeffreys, "this whole county wouldn't have healthcare."

      T his week is nurse practitioners week and in Texas, we're needing those practitioners more than ever. There's a large shortage of physicians in Texas, which is where nurse practitioners, who also diagnose, treat and prescribe medications, fill in the gaps especially in rural communities.

      "A lot of doctors are specializing and so there is a lot of need in the family practice in the rural communities," said Panhandle Nurse Practitioners Association Clinical Liaizon (and soon-to-be nurse practitioner), Kathy Boozer.

      "I really do feel like nurse practitioners have a vital role in healthcare in Texas and I really reel like that role is going to get bigger over the next few years as the physician shortage is apparent," said Jeffreys.

      Because nurse practitioners can practice is rural communities as long as they collaborate with one physician, folks in the Panhandle can get treated without traveling far and spending those extra dollars.

      "Nurse practitioners can fill in a huge void by being able to serve patients and saving huge dollars, preventing patients from going to the ER for a sore throat," said Jeffreys. "Things that they typically wouldn't need to go to a trauma center for."

      Perhaps, we should be saying "thank you" year-round.