Recently, we highlighted the role of nurses as part of National Nurses Week and International Nurses Day. Now, we’d like to continue that celebration and focus on the role of nurse practitioners. You’ve probably heard the title, but what exactly do they do? And how does their work differ from that of a registered nurse?
In this article, we’ll explore the role of nurse practitioners, and how their work has changed in recent years.
A nurse practitioner is a type of nurse with an advanced degree – either a master’s or a doctorate – and more practicing authority. Nurse practitioners perform the same functions as nurses – such as obtaining a patient’s medical history, checking their vitals, performing routine care, and providing medication – but they can also perform duties that are similar to that of a doctor.
Nurse practitioners can:
- Identify and treat the cause of illness, disease, disorders
- Order diagnostic tests and analyze their results
- Develop plans of care for patients
- Write prescriptions (independently or under a doctor’s supervision, based on state regulations)
- Refer patients to other medical specialists
- Counsel patients on how to live healthier lifestyles
The level of practicing authority that a nurse practitioner has varies based on the state in which they practice and the specific regulations of that state. For example, in some states, nurse practitioners can practice as primary care providers. In other words, they can work independently without being supervised by a doctor. Other states require NPs to be supervised by a physician.
Some patients prefer seeing a nurse practitioner instead of a doctor because they may be seen faster, and they enjoy the patient-centered care that a nurse practitioner provides.
Both registered nurses and nurse practitioners use the nursing model of patient-focused care. However, there are some key differences, beyond the additional education required to become a NP.
Unlike registered nurses, nurse practitioners can perform some of the aforementioned duties that are similar to a physician’s – such as ordering exams and diagnosing and treating patients.
In recent years, the role of nurse practitioner has become more critical than ever. It’s estimated that NPs help fill a significant gap in the shortage of primary care providers.
This gap includes the growing shortage of ob/gyn providers leaving the field or not entering the profession at all. The number of medical students applying to residencies in the ob/gyn profession is down 5% this year, a notable decrease that may be attributed to the fall of Roe v Wade under the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme court decision in June of 2022.
In addition to filling the gap of primary care providers, nurse practitioners are also working longer shifts. According to surveys completed by those currently employed as a NP, the typical length of a nurse practitioner’s shift is 8-12 hours.
It’s clear that nurse practitioners play an important role in the healthcare profession, especially during a time of decreasing primary care providers. If you have a nurse practitioner in your life, take some time to thank them for the crucial services they provide.
FemmePharma has been helping women navigate menopause for over two decades. No matter where you are in your journey, you deserve to have knowledgeable, intimate healthcare partners to help you feel your best. Explore our other articles, podcast episodes with women’s health experts, and products to ease your transition into menopause.