Why Nurse Practitioners are Essential to Modern Healthcare

The majority of people would agree that nurses are some of, if not the most important healthcare professionals today in any healthcare environment. Nurses play an extremely critical role in healthcare and it has never been more important for them to get advanced training to make sure that they are able to provide their patients with the highest standards of care. Nurse practitioners are becoming increasingly important in the healthcare field today due to the fact that they are filling the gap that has been left by the shortage of primary care physicians. With fewer medical students opting to go into primary care, nurse practitioners are stepping up to provide this important aspect of healthcare to patients and to ensure that everybody is able to receive the standard of care that they are entitled to. 

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse practitioners are advanced nursing specialists who have undergone advanced postgraduate training in order to work in primary care or another specialist healthcare field, such as pediatric, psychiatric mental health, adult-gerontology, and neonatal nursing. Many nurse practitioners have several post-graduate qualifications and are extremely skilled professionals in their career roles. Compared to registered nurses, nurse practitioners are provided with much more autonomy and responsibility in their line of work, with the ability to diagnose, prescribe, and provide treatment to patients without the need for supervision from a primary care physician in twenty US states. 

What Do Nurse Practitioners Do?

The daily work, role and responsibilities of a nurse practitioner will depend largely on the area of healthcare that they work in, the healthcare environment that they are based in, and the state where they work. In most cases, nurse practitioners have a variety of different tasks that they need to complete while at work. In many clinical settings, nurse practitioners are some of the first healthcare professionals that patients will see when they have a health problem or condition that they need help with or treatment for. Diagnosis of illness and injuries, prescribing medication or therapies, providing education and counselling to patients about their health, and making recommendations and referrals to specialist treatment providers are just some of the main roles of a nurse practitioner. In certain states, they are able to do all this without the supervision of a primary care doctor and are often found running and managing clinics independently.

What Nurse Practitioner Roles are There?

Nurse practitioners can choose to go into a range of different speciality areas and roles in this profession. There are various types of nurse practitioner roles to consider, each of which can be further specialized. Some of the most popular roles for nurse practitioners include:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

This role involves general primary healthcare dealing with general family health. Nurse practitioners in this role are often found standing in for or supporting primary healthcare doctors and will treat patients of all ages with a wide range of problems and health conditions. In states where nurse practitioners are awarded full practice authority, family nurse practitioners are often the main type of nurse practitioner found running and managing healthcare clinics. 

  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Online PMHNP certificate programs qualify advanced nurses to work as psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. In this role, nurse practitioners are mainly tasked with working with patients who are suffering from a variety of different mental health conditions. They may prescribe medications such as antidepressants or mood stabilizers alongside offering therapy to their patients or referring to specialist mental health counselling services when needed. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners work in a wide range of settings including psychiatric wards and hospitals, outpatient clinics, residential programs, prisons, addiction support programs, community support programs and more. 

  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric nurse practitioners will mainly work with children. They can be found working in a range of settings including hospitals, children’s hospitals, community settings, schools, doctor’s offices, outpatient clinics that specialize in pediatric care and more. They specialize in health issues that mainly affect infants, children and adolescents. 

  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

With thousands of babies born every year that have a low birth weight or other critical conditions, neonatal nurse practitioners are advanced healthcare providers that are crucial to making sure that these newborns get the best start in life. Neonatal nurse practitioners mainly work with pre-and full-term newborn babies that are critically ill or require special care in the first few weeks or months of their life. Typically, they are based in neo-natal wards in hospitals, but can also be found working in other settings including alongside doctor’s office’s, outpatient clinics and within the community to support new parents and provide care at home. Since this role is highly specialized, it is one of the most high-paying for nurse practitioners – but also the most stressful and emotionally taxing. 

  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners are nurse practitioners who generally treat adults with a wide range of different illnesses and conditions. They may work with adults of all ages, while some specialize in senior care or specialist care for adults with certain health conditions. 

  • Oncology Nurse Practitioner

Oncology nurse practitioners are specialist nurse practitioners who have the advanced training needed to work with patients who are suffering from various types of cancer. Oncology nurse practitioners are typically based in hospitals including oncology and chemotherapy wards and in specialist oncology outpatient clinics. They will usually work together with oncologists and other specialist doctors. 

  • Surgical Nurse Practitioner

Surgical nurse practitioners are advanced nurses who mainly work in the operating room, assisting surgeons with procedures. Although surgical nurse practitioners are not eligible to gain a license to conduct surgical procedures independently, they do tend to receive more advanced training compared to surgical registered nurses and can provide more assistance in the operating room, making them useful for high-stress and difficult surgical procedures. 

  • Retail Health Nurse Practitioner

Retail health is a fairly new area of healthcare that is often led by nurse practitioners. It is typically concerned with minor illnesses and injuries and allows patients to access health care and advice more conveniently compared to the traditional methods. Retail clinics are often located in drugstores and supermarkets and are becoming increasingly more popular among the general public as a convenient and often cheaper way to get help with minor issues. 

Why are Nurse Practitioners Important to Healthcare?

No matter their speciality area, nurse practitioners are important to healthcare in a wide range of different ways. Whether you are considering a future career as a nurse practitioner and want to get started by qualifying as a registered nurse or have already been working in nursing for some time and are considering moving into this advanced nursing role, there are many reasons why this is an important and crucial role in healthcare today. Nurse practitioners are much more than caregivers and often have a much wider range of responsibilities and authority compared to registered nurses. In many states, primary care would not be possible without nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners do much more than simply provide care to their patients – their experience as nurses put them in a unique position where they can build better relationships with patients, provide advice and counselling and improve patient care outcomes in general. 

Why is The Demand for Nurse Practitioners Growing?

In 2013, nurse practitioners ranked as the most hired healthcare professional of the year, according to research. Since then, the demand for nurse practitioners is only growing, mainly due to the shortage of primary care physicians and the need for alternative advanced healthcare providers to fill these roles that are being left empty with fewer medical students opting for primary care. Nurse practitioners are currently one of the most in-demand healthcare roles in the US and is enjoying a rate of growth that’s higher than that of primary care physicians. So, what’s behind the increasing demand for nurse practitioners?

  • Changes to the Demographic

The population is ageing and with older patients often comes more chronic health issues and healthcare needs. A report by the American Association of Medical Colleges in 2015 found that by 2025, we can expect the US population to have grown by around 10% – but the biggest rate of growth is expected to be within the senior demographic. While these numbers may have been skewed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of seniors in America is expected to make up more than 45% of the population in around four years’ time. 

  • Growth of Retail Clinics

As mentioned above, retail clinics are becoming a more and more convenient way for patients to get healthcare services and advice for a range of minor illnesses and injuries that might not warrant a visit to the doctor’s office or ER. Commonly found in superstores and drug stores, retail clinics give patients the option to get healthcare while they are running other errands. High rates of coverage from insurance companies mean that retail clinics, which are often run exclusively by nurse practitioners, are becoming a more and more popular alternative option to get healthcare. 

  • More Mental Health Services Demand

The demand for mental health services is also growing, leading to more openings for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners in the healthcare industry. This is especially true since the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a significant impact on the mental health of the global population, leading an increasing number of people to seek help and support for conditions such as anxiety, depression, chronic stress and the newer COVID Anxiety Syndrome, which involves symptoms such as avoiding going out, excessive cleaning, and becoming overwhelmed with anxiety and worry surrounding catching COVID-19 even when the risk is low. 

  • Shortage of Primary Care Physicians

One of the main reasons why more and more nurse practitioner roles have been opened over the past few years is that fewer medical students are opting to get into primary care. As a result of this, nurse practitioners have been hired to fill the gaps left and make sure that patients have access to the standards of primary care that they are used to. Since then, statistics have shown that nurse practitioners are doing a fairly great job. Most patients find that the care that they receive under a nurse practitioner is equal to or even better than the care provided by a primary care physician. Nurse practitioners are often individuals who have gained a significant amount of experience as a registered nurse before getting into this role, which gives them a unique advantage over other primary care health professionals when it comes to building relationships with their patients and ensuring that the best quality of care is provided. 

Why Consider Working as a Nurse Practitioner?

Whether you’re at the very beginning of your career in nursing or are currently working as a nurse and want to advance your career, there has never been a better time than now to consider training to become a nurse practitioner. The high demand for nurse practitioners in all specialities means that it has never been easier to find a position that fits your needs and the option to make a difference in the lives of others and the healthcare industry as a whole. 

With several options to consider when it comes to training as a nurse practitioner, you can take your career in the direction that interests you the most whether that involves working with babies, mental health patients, cancer patients or something else. And, with more and more online nurse practitioner training programs including master’s degrees with a focus on becoming a nurse practitioner, nurse practitioner postgraduate certificates and more to consider, completing your studies and getting the qualifications needed has never been more flexible or easier to complete while working as a registered nurse, meaning that there’s no need to worry about taking time out of your career to train. 

Today, nurse practitioners have become a highly important part of the healthcare industry. With fewer medical students choosing primary care as their main area, nurse practitioners are needed across healthcare to improve patient outcomes and keep standards of care high. 

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