The nurse practitioner is the apex of nursing. It is the top of the nursing chain in such that it is one step below a full physician. Nurse practitioners perform many of the same tasks as physicians, including performing minor surgery and diagnosing and treating patients. They have taken and completed many of the same educational courses that a doctor must take but are still one step below the level of a full M.D.
They are registered nurses with a graduate level education in nursing who most often have a masters degree. One of the main differences is that a nurse practitioner is still an RN, and not an MD, but they do earn the NP tag behind their name, of which NP stands for Nurse Practitioner. Nurse Practitioner in the broad sense is a title only. There are many sub specialties that add the title of NP to it.
These highly educated nurses have a masters degree and some even have their doctorate degree as well. Given that fact alone, they are some of the most highly paid nurses in the nursing profession.
Their role in the healthcare industry is mainly as primary and specialty healthcare. They provide high quality, low cost care to individuals that is comparable to the care that is provided by physicians and often work along side or with physicians in the many areas of healthcare.
As hospitals and other medical providers are always looking to cut costs, nurse practitioners are becoming more in demand as they perform many of the same tasks as full physicians, but at about half the cost. They treat many common issues, but the more serious issues are always referred to a physician for further evaluation and treatment.
They practice in all 50 states of the USA and some of the places you will commonly find them are; hospitals and hospital clinics, communist clinics, community health centers, walk-in clinics, hospice facilities, physician offices, public health departments, nursing homes, college clinics, and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are hiring more and more NPs as well. The Veterans Administration also hires a lot of NPs as well.
They specialize and practice in the many areas of healthcare such as women’s health, pediatrics, dermatology, family practice, mental health, e.t.c. but a lot of nurse practitioners work in and specialize in sub-specialties of the main medical specialties.
Some of their duties are tp diagnose and treat diseases, order various lab tests, initiate treatment plans and prescribe medications, and perform minor surgeries such as sutures (stitches). Some of the sub-specialty fields that current Nurse Practitioners work in are: Women’s Health – OBGYN, Neonatal, Emergency room, Psychiatric / Mental health, Gerontology, Cardiology, Oncology, Surgical / Operating room, e.t.c.
Nurse practitioners work directly under physicians and in many cases work independently, only consulting with the physicians over them when needed except for major health problems, then the nurse practitioner sends their patients to a physician.
As a general rule, each state regulates the role of NPs and has set guidelines as to what they may or may not do in the scope of their duties. Some states grant them full prescription privileges, which includes controlled substances, while some states dictate that they can only write prescriptions under the supervision of a doctor. In some cases they can write most all prescriptions except for controlled substances.
As an overview, some of the basic duties a NP will perform but are not limited to are: prescribing medications, ordering physical therapy and other rehab treatments, ordering and interpreting various diagnostic procedures and studies such as lab tests, X-Rays, EEGs, EKGs, diagnose, treat and monitor chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, diagnose and treat various acute illnesses, injuries and infections, provide counseling and education to patients about health behaviors, treatment options, and self-help /self-care skills. They also provide prenatal care for pregnant women as ell as family planning services. NPs also provide overall health maintenance care for children and adults alike, including performing annual physical exams.
As the role of NPs grows, many of them serve as a patient’s sole primary care provider and in some cases they have and run their own private practice. And with that being the case, many nursing schools are recognizing this fact and are implementing doctoral programs. It has been recommended by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, that all nursing schools make the switch to doctoral programs and those students who seek to become a nurse practitioner will have to and be able to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice.
So in today’s modern age, chances are that if you already have not seen a NP during a visit to a clinic, hospital or other healthcare facility, chances are that you will seen one in due time, as they are becoming more common now and are usually the first stop before seeing an actual MD.
The average annual salary rage for Nurse Practitioners is $83,000.00 on the low end and upwards of $120,000.00 per year on the high end. The average annual median salary for them is around $ 97,000.00, but with nursing schools now implementing doctoral programs into their curriculum, you can expect these salary averages to rise in order to be commensurate with their education level.
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