The Role of Nurse Practitioners in Healthcare

Medical Practice / Office Ownership, Nursing 12

What is the role of nurse practitioners within healthcare?

During the 1960’s there was a strong need for primary care services. In 1965, Drs. Henry Silver, a pediatrician, and Loretta Ford, a nurse, collaborated to meet this need by creating a nurse practitioner (NP) program at Colorado University.

NPs are independently licensed healthcare providers that practice as either primary healthcare providers or specialty healthcare providers. They work in ambulatory, acute and long-term care settings. The scope of practice for NPs blends nursing and medical care for individuals, families and groups. The population focus of a nurse practitioner can range from:

Pioneer of the Nurse Practitioner Profession, Dr Loretta Ford
The pioneer of the nurse practitioner profession, Dr. Loretta Ford, and Dr. Rachel Silva at the Annual National AANP Conference 2014
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are licensed healthcare providers with the ability to:

  • diagnose both acute and chronic health conditions
  • manage the care of both acute and chronic health conditions
  • prescribe medications
  • prescribe non-pharmacologic therapies
  • order, conduct, supervise and interpret diagnostic and laboratory tests.

In order to become an NP, one must have received an undergraduate baccalaureate degree in nursing, be licensed as a registered nurse, received advanced graduate education and have earned a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) specializing as a nurse practitioner. Many NPs have also earned doctoral degrees. Upon completing advanced graduate education, NPs achieve national board certification, state licensure and credentialing. To learn more about the role of nurse practitioners, read the AANP Policy and Position Statements.

The video below shares more about the history of the nurse practitioner profession and scope of practice.

This year marks the 50th year of the nurse practitioner profession. In the United States, there are now 205,000 nurse practitioners working to provide quality healthcare, improve patient outcomes and decrease healthcare costs. As we celebrate National Nurse Practitioner Week, November 9th – 15th, several nurses joined forces to discuss the role of nurse practitioners within healthcare for The Nurse Blog Carnival.

What is a blog carnival? A blog carnival is “traveling” blog. It is one post combining a selection of other blog posts in a particular niche, on a specified topic. A total of eight nurses of The Nurse Blog Carnival wrote on the topic of the nurse practitioner role within healthcare. Be sure to check out each of these fabulous nurse bloggers!

Dr. Donna Maheady is a pediatric nurse practitioner, with a passion for helping and encouraging nurses with disabilities. In her blog, Exceptional Nurse, Dr. Maheady shares the inspiring story of three nurses who overcame disabilities with severe hearing loss, mental illness and cerebral palsy to become successful nurse practitioners improving the lives of others in their communities. The role of the nurse practitioner with a disability can inspire us to focus on our abilities to improve the lives of others.

Deanna Gillingham of Case Management Study Guide wrote an interesting article, Do You Educate Your Clients About NPs? Deanna provides information on the NP’s role in providing quality care, decreased healthcare costs, and research indicating healthcare provided by nurse practitioners is comparable with physician counterparts, at times with higher satisfaction scores. Deanna discusses an interesting case of a patient dissatisfied with his care, and what led him to seek healthcare from a nurse practitioner.

Brittany is an acute care nurse practitioner student. She frequently is asked, “what the heck is an acute care nurse practitioner?” In her blog article for #NurseLyfe, Brittany reveals the exciting adrenaline rush in the life of an acute care nurse practitioner. This includes performing invasive procedures such as central line placement, chest tube insertion, intubations and more. The role of the nurse practitioner improves outcomes of patients in need of critical care.

Elizabeth Scala notes the increasing role responsibilities of nurse practitioners due to state legislative changes improving access to care for their residents. As states remove NP practice barriers (21 states and D.C. thus far) by instituting full practice authority for NP’s, it provides the opportunity for NPs to practice to the full extent of their knowledge and training. With these state legislative changes, many NPs are branching out into entrepreneurship. Elizabeth shares three tips for aspiring nurse practitioner entrepreneurs at Nursing From Within.

Carrie Sue Halsey gives thanks for advanced practice nurses, such as nurse practitioners, at Perinatal Empowerment. Carrie Sue provides a gratitude list of 10 ways these highly trained and educated healthcare professionals made a personal impact on her life. She discusses the impact nurse practitioners had throughout all stages of her life from childhood, surviving her husband’s military deployment, to choosing her nursing career. She imparts the greatest words of wisdom they gave her “was the belief in my own ability. They drilled in me not to sell myself short, to not settle and to unabashedly pursue my goals as an equal player within the healthcare system.”

As a home health nurse, Kathy Quan understands the important role of nurse practitioners in providing care to the population of patients with home health needs. Unfortunately, although NPs may be the primary care providers for these patients, according to Medicare they aren’t able to sign off on home healthcare plans and authorize Medicare patients for home health benefits. Kathy champions all readers to contact state legislators and ask them to co-sign and support The Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act of 2015 (S578 or HR 1342). She provides links to contact state representatives and senators to encourage them towards improving access to care of those in need of home health services at The Nursing Site Blog.

Lastly Lorie Brown, both an attorney and registered nurse of Your Nurse Attorney, shared Five Essential Contract Issues for NPs to consider. Lorie’s article reminds us all to consider how important contract negotiation is for an NP. Developing contract negotiation skills impacts the NPs ability to be a successful member of the healthcare team for his or her community and nation at large.

More information on the career path of nurse practitioners is at How Do I Become a Nurse Practitioner?

This post was written as part of the Nurse Blog Carnival. Find out how to participate.

Happy Nurse Practitioner Week!

November 9 – 15

Nurse Practitioner Infographic

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