After being a patient in the hospital as a teenager, I knew I wanted to become a nurse to help people the way the nurses had helped me. I started this process as a Certified Nurse’s Aide while in high school. This gave me the foundation I needed to enter nursing school. After becoming an RN, I began working in the hospital setting. While I absolutely love the pace and intensity of the hospital environment, I didn’t feel that I was doing all I could to help my patients. I would see people at a low point in their lives, but never knew what happened with them when they went home. Becoming a Nurse Practitioner was the natural next step for me in my medical career. It allows me to really get to know my patients both in illness and in health. I love that I can form these relationships and help guide people to their best health possible.
What is a Nurse Practitioner? Nurse practitioners (NP’s) are Advance Practice Registered Nurses who are licensed, autonomous clinicians who focus on managing people’s health conditions and preventing disease. This is sometimes confused with an RN (Registered Nurse). While an RN cannot prescribe medication or diagnose conditions, an NP is licensed to do so. Many Nurse Practitioners have experience working as a nurse in the clinical setting in addition to their years of formal education and advanced degree. This is typically a Master’s Degree of Science in Nursing (MSN), but doctoral programs (DNP) are becoming more common throughout the United States. Nurse Practitioners are certified by national bodies and licensed by their state board of nursing. This helps to ensure that NPs are equipped to provide high quality healthcare.
As of March 2018, there were approximately 248,000 Nurse Practitioners in the US. A little over 55% of these are Family Nurse Practitioners. This is especially important in providing access to the increasing patient population and provider shortages. “Provider shortages, especially in primary care, have become a growing concern, but the growth of the NP profession is addressing that concern head-on,” said AANP President Joyce Knestrick, PhD. “Couple that with news that NPs conducted an estimated 1.02 billion patient visits last year alone, and it’s easy to see why millions of Americans are making NPs their providers of choice.”
Primary care Nurse Practitioners are especially skilled at treating the health and well-being of the whole person. By focusing on patient education, health and wellness education, and disease prevention NPs are able to offer guidance in health and lifestyle choices. This leads to fewer ER visits, fewer hospitalization re admissions, and higher patient satisfaction.