EL PASO, Texas - Jennifer Armendariz has been a nurse practitioner at The Doctors In for three years.
This week is Nurse Practitioners Week, and Armendariz wrote to ABC-7 to raise awareness.
She asked the station to focus on the importance of nurse practitioners, and the job industry growth.
According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, there are roughly 155,000 NP's in the nation.
"There are still a lot of patients in the community that aren't aware of what a nurse practitioner is," Armendariz said.
She added that nurse practitioners are very similar to doctors in the office.
They can diagnose patients, prescribe medication, interpret x-rays, and do other tasks commonly associated with a doctor.
The main difference between the two professions is schooling.
Doctors complete medical school, and graduate at the doctoral level.
Nurse practitioners are trained as nurses, operate under their own license and are only required to complete higher education through a masters program.
That isn't something that should concern patients, according to Armendariz.
"I want the community to know we are Masters prepared. That we have a number of different things that we can do," Armendariz said.
The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates 32 million people will gain access to healthcare thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
However, they also estimate the shortage of doctors int he nation will shoot to more than 90,000 by the year 2020.
According to the American Medical Association, the nurse practitioner population is expected to do the opposite, and nearly double by 2025.
"Especially with all the changes in healthcare that are going on right now, physicians cannot manage all the number of patients that we're gonna have. And as nurse practitioners, we're going to be able to step up," Armendariz said.
According to University of Texas El Paso Assistant Dean of Graduation Education Doctor Leslie Robbins, the number of applicants to the nurse practitioners programs has nearly doubled this year compared to last.
Robbins said they are even considering adding new specialization courses to their program.
The question remains, do doctors feel threatened by the growth in the nurse practitioner field?
"I think it really is dependent on the relationship that we have with the physicians. There's no reason for there to be a battle. We're here to take care of the patients," Armendariz said.
The educational disparity will soon dissipate between nurse practitioners and doctors.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the schooling requirement is set to change.
By 2015, nurse practitioners will be required to have education at the doctorate level.