Offering Personalized Care on the MCDH Campus
Note: many of the facts below were taken directly from www.womenshealthchannel.com.
Like clinics all across America, the healthcare team at North Coast Family Health Center in Fort Bragg includes advanced practice nurses, also known nurse practitioners, as part of the front line of care provided to the community.
“Many people embrace nurse practitioners as one of their care providers, while others don’t understand the skill and training necessary to become a nurse practitioner. Some people resist seeing them or will only see a doctor,” explained Heather Paulsen, North Coast Family Health Center Practice Manager.
“Nurse practitioners are trained and qualified to provide many of the same diagnostic and treatment services as physicians, including prescribing medications, while working under the supervision of a physician.” – Heather Paulsen.
Essential Team Members
What is a Nurse Practitioner? How are they trained? How do they help physicians deliver care?
A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse (RN) who has completed advanced education (a minimum of a master’s degree) and training in the diagnosis and management of common medical conditions, including chronic illnesses. Nurse practitioners provide a broad range of health care services. They provide some of the same care provided by physicians and maintain close working relationships with physicians. An NP can serve as a patient’s primary health care provider. The first nurse practitioner programs were launched in 1965. Although there are nearly as many nurse practitioner specialties as there are medical specialties, the three main designations are adult medicine (ANP), family medicine (FNP) and critical care (ANCC).
The Appeal of Being an NP
“What appeals to me most about being a nurse practitioner is that we focus on how an ailment affects a person and how we can improve their overall health through education,” said nurse practitioner Lisa Wolfe, Ph.D., ANP. Dr. Wolfe earned her Ph.D. and taught nurses at a university for several years before deciding that while she liked teaching, she “really wanted to work with patients.”
“I’ve always loved the role of the nurse to spend more personal time with patients and promote health education,” she added. “Being a nurse practitioner not only brings you closer to patients, but requires a high level of critical thinking which I love as well.”
While each nurse practitioner works closely with a physician responsible for reviewing and signing off on their cases and decisions, Wolfe says the working environment is very collegial, noting: “while we are very autonomous, we consult with a physician if there is something we aren’t familiar with or would like a second opinion.”
Nurse practitioners see patients of all ages. As Wolfe notes, the core philosophy of the field is individualized care. Nurse practitioners focus on patients’ conditions as well as the effects of illness on the lives of the patients and their families. This can mean fewer prescriptions and less expensive treatments. In addition to health care services, NPs conduct research and are often active in patient advocacy activities.
Nurse Practitioner Duties
A nurse practitioner’s duties include the following:
• Collaborating with physicians and other health professionals as needed, including providing referrals
• Counseling and educating patients on health behaviors, self-care skills, and treatment options
• Diagnosing and treating acute illnesses, infections, and injuries
• Diagnosing, treating, and monitoring chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure)
• Obtaining medical histories and conducting physical examinations
• Ordering, performing, and interpreting diagnostic studies (e.g., lab tests, x-rays, EKGs)
• Prescribing medications
• Prescribing physical therapy and other rehabilitation treatments
• Providing prenatal care and family planning services
• Providing well-child care, including screening and immunizations
• Providing health maintenance care for adults, including annual physicals
Licensure and Certification
To be licensed as a nurse practitioner, the candidate must first complete the education and training necessary to be a registered nurse (RN).
Requirements for a registered nurse include an associate degree in nursing (ADN), a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN), or completion of a diploma program, as well as direct patient care for acutely or chronically ill patients. Associate degree in nursing programs, which are offered by community and junior colleges, usually take 2-3 years. BSN programs are offered by colleges and universities and take 4-5 years and diploma programs are administered in hospitals and usually take 2-3 years. Depending on the program attended, the candidate may fulfill some NP requirements while completing the RN degree. Once registered nurse status is attained, the candidate must complete a state-approved advanced training program that usually specializes in a field such as family practice, internal medicine, or women’s health.
After receiving state licensing, a nurse practitioner can apply for national certification from the ANA or other professional nursing boards such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Some NPs pursue certification in a specialty.