Nurse practitioners are an increasing presence in health care. Although they have been been providing care for more than 45 years, they are being hired in greater numbers due to a shortage of primary care physicians. According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, there were about 135,000 practicing NPs in the U.S. in 2010.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse practitioners typically are registered nurses who have advanced degrees in nursing and have been licensed or certified to practice in their states. The AANP reports more than 90 percent of NPs have been certified in a specialty by a national certifying agency. Most states require nurse practitioners to have a collaborative agreement with a physician; all states allow NPs to prescribe medications and treatments.
Nurse practitioners are skilled healthcare providers who provide safe, trustworthy patient care. More people are choosing NPs as their primary healthcare providers, according to the AANP, because they "deliver a unique blend of nursing and medical care." Your NP will generally spend more time with you, as she usually is not paid on the basis of the number of patients she sees. Closer attention to small nuances in your condition may result in better diagnosis and care.
Physicians are concerned that too much trust may be placed in nurse practitioners. It requires 10 times more clinical training to become a medical doctor. If your state does not limit the practice of nurse practitioners, you can't be guaranteed that your charts will be reviewed by a physician. Three out of the 50 states do not allow NPs to prescribe controlled substances, which could add an extra step between you and the treatment you need.
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