It’s no secret that there’s a primary care physician shortage that will only escalate in the coming years, mostly due to the aging population. Nurse Practitioners, or NPs, are key to assisting with the primary care shortage and address health issues.
In many rural communities, NPs are increasingly key to diagnosing and treating health conditions with an added emphasis on disease prevention and health management.
The Qualifications of Nurse Practitioners
All NPs must complete a master’s or doctoral degree program and have advanced clinical training beyond our initial professional registered nurse (RN) preparation.
Experience beyond the classroom allows us to gain clinical competency to practice in primary care, acute care, and long-term health care environments.
National certification is followed by peer review on a periodic basis, evaluation of clinical outcomes, and adherence to codes spelling out ethical practices. I recently earned my second national Board Certification in Family & Emergency Care through the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, my first board certification coming in 2004 while I worked at a Mississippi trauma center.
We lead very busy lives as NPs, juggling personal and professional responsibilities. Research and Authoring reviews are challenging when most NPs are busy, but peer reviews allow us to determine when an author has something new or unique to say that justifies another paper on a given topic.
Nurse Practitioners Filling the Need in a Variety of Settings
You’ll find NPs providing care in a variety of settings, from clinics and urgent care facilities to nursing homes, schools, public health departments, emergency rooms, and other settings. We practice under the rules and regulations of the states in which we are licensed.
My career has led me to positions in Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina in situations ranging from large community hospitals to out-patient rural clinic settings. I currently offer high-quality Medical Care in four Emergency Rooms in two states and across three campuses.
As NPs, we offer specialty areas of treatment. For example, I’ve had a keen interest in exploring emergency care via helicopter ambulance, and while at the UT Erlanger Academic Urology clinic, I concentrated on treating general urologic conditions with an emphasis on quality of life issues pertaining to men’s health.
Nurse Practitioners Can Make a Difference in Patient Education
We also know the vital importance of educating our patients about disease prevention and making positive health and lifestyle choices.
A recent article by Sue Ellen Gondram, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, published in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners argues that NPs need to be “at the forefront of the battle against obesity. The psychological, biological and economic impact of obesity can be devastating. Losing as little as 3-5% of extra body weight has significant health benefits.”
Discharge instructions from NPs to assist patients in disease management have been found to incorporate more concepts of self-care that can conceivably lower heart failure exacerbation that leads to costly hospital readmissions, as compared to similar discharge instructions from MDs. NPs are more likely to schedule a follow-up appointment and develop action plans that are easily understandable and adapted to the patient’s level of health literacy.
The use of telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient education, public health point to continued growth. “Telehealth” will enable us to collect and transmission data to be interpreted while also remotely monitoring tools like blood pressure monitors. For reaching rural and underserved patients and providing basic care, telehealth holds promise for a variety of medical specialties.
To go along with improved patient access, cost savings, and increased efficiency, the cons are barriers preventing physical examination, the potential for technical issues, and the risk of security breaches. NPs will need to become more familiar with the potential legal issues and risks surrounding telehealth to make sure patients receive the best care.