Today, nurse practitioners (NP) are highly requested as health professionals in the United States. But, what are nurse practitioners and how are they different from registered nurses? What type of qualifications do they hold and what are their main responsibilities within the healthcare system? Some thoughts and topics on these subjects will be addressed here.
What are nurse practitioners?
Nurse practitioners are professionals who look after their patients’ health and are qualified through formal education and proficient in clinical practice. They are constantly engaged in the improvement of people’s health and prevention of sickness, which is a role they fulfill by the analysis and control of diseases and health disorders. They, along with registered nurses, are able to treat and instruct patients. However, NPs have a higher level of formal knowledge and training which significantly differentiates them from registered nurses. Registered nurses must treat based on a doctor’s recommendation and they are unable to prescribe medicines, which is something an NP is legally authorized to do.
NPs can offer medical assistance at hospitals, clinics, private or doctors’ offices, nursing homes and they can also manage a private business of their own in some states.
The need for NPs has increased in recent years and it is projected to rise even more in the forthcoming ones. By 2025, authorities believe the number of NPs will have augmented substantially, reaching the highest numbers ever seen, according to the American Association for Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
Part of the reasoning behind these increments is due to the existence of authority of approval derived through legislation. For instance, they have the authority to prescribe medications in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.
What qualifications are held by nurse practitioners?
They hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and many continue for a Master of Science in Nursing, there is even a doctorate level. Licensing and registration will depend on the laws and regulations currently in force within the state they live. Generally, nurses require a license and experience in a specialty as a registered nurse before proceeding to to a higher level of educational career.
NPs specialize in one of several areas and must pass a National Board Certifying Exam in specialties, such as acute care, family, women’s health, pediatrics, psychiatry, geriatrics, among others. After achieving certification, NPs must obtain authority to prescribe and other credentials at state and federal levels. Family Nurse Practitioners appear to be the most sought-out specialty with almost fifty-five percent popularity. Adult-gerontology (geriatrics) is currently the second most popular specialization with more than twenty percent of all existing areas.
NPs must have a specific number of clinical hours to obtain and keep certification and licensure. The amount of practical nursing hours depends on the school they are graduating from. As noted previously, before they can practice as professionals, they must pass state board examinations and requirements that will allow them to be active within the state they live.
What are the main responsibilities of nurse practitioners within the healthcare system?
NPs are legally authorized to provide medical prescriptions. And they can do that because they have a formal advanced education and training to diagnose and treat illnesses in the areas they hold specializations.
NPs can examine and register the health history of a patient in their search to provide a diagnosis of a health disorder. They can perform physical tests on patients, analyze lab tests, x-rays, order and/or perform some specific treatments, rehabilitations, counseling to patients in cases of diabetes, treat infections, measure blood pressure, treat wounds and general health assessments. They are the members of the healthcare system that are closest to patients and therefore develop bonds that can help patients even more.
The U.S. is experiencing a scarcity in nurse practitioners. It represents opportunities for these professionals who will soon see a higher than ever demand in this very rewarding and challenging career!