Healthcare and the provision of healthcare has changed immensely over the past 50 years. If you have been a patient in an outpatient clinic or hospital recently, that fact is obvious to you.
We tend to think of change in a negative light, but that is not necessarily so. Over the past 50 years the nursing profession has undergone signficant changes. One of those positive changes is the inauguration of the professional nurse practitioner.
By definition, a nurse practitioner is a professional clinician who blends clinical expertise in diagnosing and treating health conditions with the added emphasis on disease prevention and health management. NPs bring a comprehensive perspective to health care. They are required to complete a master’s or doctoral degree program and continue with advanced training beyond their initial registered nurse qualifications.
If you’re wondering what nurse practitioners can do, here are some answers to your potential questions: Once they are nationally certified, nps can order tests, diagnose and treat acute or chronic health conditions, prescribe medications, and manage a patient’s plan of care. Additionally, they are qualified counselors and educators guiding and supporting patients and their families along the path to improved health.
To be clear, nurse practitioners do not seek to replace physicians. They are part of the healthcare team – as are pharmacists, physicians and many other healthcare professionals whose goal is to help you feel your best.
What’s more, the approach of a nurse practitioner is holistic – i.e., their focus, is on the health and well being of the person as a whole. Promoting improved health, disease prevention, and directing patients toward smarter health and lifestyle choices is always their goal.
Ok, confession time. I am a nurse practitioner** who has spent a considerable amount of time over the past three years as a patient, basically on the other side of the stethoscope. Truly an uncomfortable place for me just like any other patient.
Nurse practitioners have played an integral role in the success of my care. Fortunately, an astute nurse practitioner identified an abnormality in my blood that led to a life-prolonging treatment. Many of my present clinic visits are spent with someone who listens to my complaints about medication side effects and encourages me to hang in there. It was a nurse practitioner who also helped me navigate the financial assistance application process enabling me to afford my very expensive medication.
Currently there are approximately 200,000 certified nurse practitioners in the United States.
Chances are you will have the opportunity to meet with one throughout your healthcare journey. My hope is that you’ll be open to including a nurse practitioner as a fundamental partner in your healthcare team.
** This excellent, informative blog was written by my good friend and very professional nurse practitioner, Kathy Carroll, firstname.lastname@example.org. When you’re asked if you’ll see the nurse practitioner next time maybe you’ll be thinking – why not?