If you are feeling under the weather or need to see a doctor, it might be difficult in our current state of affairs with regard to Covid-19. Now is the time when you may need to schedule with a nurse practitioner. These healthcare specialists can provide similar services and may have more availability when it comes to your needs as a patient.
What nurse practitioners can do is provide high quality and cost effective care to you and millions of Americans nationwide. They can assess your condition, diagnosis and prescribe medications. Keep in mind, they are licensed and independent providers. This means they do not need to work under direct supervision of a licensed physician. There are over 205,000 nurse practitioners licensed in the United States and over 17,000 new graduates each year.
It becomes increasingly likely that you have or will come in contact with a nurse practitioner. It is important to know their role with your healthcare and treatment plans. They are in charge of over 916 million patient visits each year, so this is a great time to get to know exactly what they do and why they are important.
1. They Are Educated
Make no mistake, nurse practitioners are highly educated. They possess either a master’s or doctorate degree. The ability to even get into a nurse practitioner school is very competitive and very few applicants are granted admission. There is a national exam that all nurse practitioners must pass before applying to further education. This is called the National Council Licensure Examination.
In addition, they take extensive courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, abnormal psychology and pathophysiology. With education also comes clinical education, high-tech patient simulations and science courses beyond general studies. This type of education cultivates highly intelligent students that become expert clinicians.
2. They Are Specialized
Before a nurse practitioner enters school, they must choose a specialty. This is so that their education can provide a clinical focus. Some specialties include adult health, family health, gerontology, neonatal health, pediatrics, psychiatry, or women’s health.
Additionally, nurse practitioners can choose a subspeciality which includes even more education and clinical hours. These subspecialities can include oncology, immunology, cardiology, dermatology, emergency, endocrinology, gastroenterology, neurology, occupational health, orthopedics, pulmonology, sports medicine, and urology.
3. They Can Diagnose and Treat
With the ability to diagnose and treat medical conditions, nurse practitioners are able to do almost everything a physician can do. If a nurse practitioner chooses to specialize in psychiatrics, they can diagnose and treat conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and substance abuse. A nurse practitioner that specializes in pediatrics can diagnose and treat conditions like ear infections, allergies and asthma.
4. They Can Prescribe Medications
In addition to diagnosing and treating medical conditions, nurse practitioners can also prescribe medications in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They have the ability to safely and accurately prescribe medication, including controlled substances.
5. They Can Order Laboratory Tests
Ordering and interpreting laboratory tests is another thing that nurse practitioners can do. They can order such tests as complete blood counts, serum iron tests, vitamine assays, STI tests, and organ function tests (liver, kidney, thyroid,etc). Also, they can opt for x-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, CT scans, ECGs and more when necessary. These tests all help guide the nurse practitioner to make a proper diagnosis with a good treatment plan.
6. They Serve the Underserved
Nurse practitioners help greatly in areas that are otherwise underserved. There are many rural areas around the country that benefit from nurse practitioners serving their community. Between the years of 2008 to 2016, the percentage of nurse practitioners that served rural areas increased from 17.6% to 25.2% and the number continues to climb.
5. They Work in a Variety of Settings
You might only have seen nurse practitioners in the traditional setting of a hospital or urgent care center. However, they also can be trained to work in plastic surgery offices, home health companies or hospice facilities. Many nurse practitioners do enjoy primary care work, but they are not limited. As the training and integration of nurse practitioners increases, so does the number and variety of job opportunities.
As you can see, nurse practitioners are very educated and talented individuals. They can provide a huge variety of services in a number of locations. There is a huge chance you will have a nurse practitioner on your healthcare team, so get to know them and understand their role in your health and wellness.