What is a nurse practitioner?

Annual wellness visits have long been considered a vital component of preventive health care. That hasn’t changed, though the dynamic between patient and health care professional during those visits has changed considerably for many people.

Once a realm exclusive to patients and their physicians, annual wellness exams now often involve patients and nurse practitioners. In fact, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners notes that NPs have become the preferred health partner of choice for millions of people, which makes it worthwhile to explore just what NPs do.

What is a nurse practitioner?

The AANP notes that NPs are highly educated clinicians who blend clinical experience in diagnosing and treating health conditions with an added emphasis on disease prevention and health management. All NPs must complete a master’s or doctoral degree program and have advanced clinical training beyond their initial professional registered nurse preparation. The education and training required of NPs prepares them to practice in various health care settings, including primary care, acute care and longterm care.

Which services can NPs provide?

Some people may not even realize that the NP they speak with during an annual wellness exam isnÕt a physician. That’s because NPs can perform a host of services people often associate with physicians. The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that NPs are allowed to provide a broad range of services, including: ¥ Perform a physical exam ¥ Order laboratory tests and procedures ¥ Diagnose, treat and manage diseases ¥ Prescribe medications and write prescriptions ¥ Coordinate referrals ¥ Provide information regarding preventive care and healthy lifestyles ¥ Perform certain medical procedures What are the qualifications to be an NP?

The AANP notes that NPs undergo rigorous certification, periodic peer review and clinical outcome evaluations. NPs also must adhere to ethical codes. In addition, due to the fluid nature of health care, NPs must self-direct their continued learning and development to ensure they maintain their clinical competency.

Why do I see an NP and not a physician?

The AANP notes that NPs help to address a shortage of primary care physicians. With their expertise and accepted range of responsibilities, NPs are helping to ensure patients receive timely and accurate medical advice. Without NPs, patients may have to wait especially long periods of time to see their physicians, which could have dramatic and adverse long-term effects on their overall health.

Nurse practitioners play a vital role in modern health care settings. These versatile, talented professionals routinely apply their rigorous training and extensive education in ways that benefit their patients every day.