New in Health Care: Working with Nurse Practitioners

Research finds mothers are the leaders in most households when it comes to making decisions about health care. Today’s health care landscape is a mix of private, local and national plans, each with their own rules and rates–its not easy to find out the best options out there. And among plans there are no more options than ever for which kind of medical professional to work with. One less familiar option for for many is working with a nurse practitioner.

Today nurse practitioners are more common than ever in health care settings across the country. If you haven’t worked with one before, you may be wondering what their role is in providing care, and how they differ from other nurses or doctors. When looking for a health care provider a nurse practitioner might be the best option–here are a few facts about them to help in the decision-making process.

What is a nurse practitioner?
Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have a master’s or doctoral degrees in specific specialties, including women’s health/midwifery, adult health, pediatric health, or geriatric health, among others.How is a family nurse practitioner different from a general practitioner?

Family nurse practitioners (FNP) are trained to diagnose and treat illnesses, and they generally work with a host of medical professionals in health care settings who collaborate to provide care for the entire family on a range of issues. FNPs can write prescriptions and order medical tests, as well as refer patients to specialists for more specific treatments.


Working with Nurse Practitioners

photo credit: wolak

What training is required for nurse practitioners?
In addition to their undergraduate and graduate degrees, nurse practitioners have years of training in their area of specialty, and are required to maintain their credentials through continuing education.

The Initiative on the Future of Nursing urges nurses to take leadership roles and pursue advanced degrees and the the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, will bring an estimated 31 million additional people into the U.S. health care system that previously did not have health insurance coverage.  Advanced practice nurses will be an integral part of care delivery. So the chances are likely that if you haven’t encountered nurse practitioners until now you will soon.

This guest post was written by Lesly Simmons, a health care reporter turned community manager for Nursing@Georgetown, which offers advanced nursing degrees delivered online including Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and Nursing Education.

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