As a patient or a family member, navigating the world of healthcare can be difficult, and it’s not always obvious what all of the different titles and roles mean. Family nurse practitioner is one role that is growing rapidly, but not everyone is familiar with what family nurse practitioners do and the services they offer. Today, we look at the role of family nurse practitioners and the care they can provide for individuals and patients.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
For those unfamiliar with the profession, nurse practitioners are healthcare providers who deliver a blend of nursing and medical care, focusing equally on treating and educating patients.
Nurse practitioners can help patients manage acute or long-term chronic illnesses, and they have been found to have primary care outcomes as good as or superior to those of physicians. They can conduct physical exams, perform diagnostic tests and procedures, diagnose various health problems and write prescriptions for their patients.
What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?
Building relationships with and caring for families is at the heart of being a family nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners specializing in family practice can diagnose, examine and treat patients of all ages, from childhood to adulthood, much like a family doctor. In addition, family nurse practitioners are committed to educating patients on disease prevention and promoting positive, healthy behaviors for all developmental stages. Nurse practitioners closely work with their patients to understand their needs, concerns, and lifestyles and to guide their patients in living healthy lives. For this reason, many patients find themselves able to develop trusting, close relationships with their family nurse practitioners.
Some family nurse practitioners work on teams with or under physicians in private practices, while others work at community treatment centers or walk-in clinics. Although the scope of practice for nurse practitioners varies by state law, family nurse practitioners may in some states operate their own private family practices. As demand continues to grow for medical services from aging baby boomers and those newly insured by recent healthcare reform, the laws regarding independent practice for family nurse practitioners are likely to continue evolving. In medically underserved populations with a shortage of physicians, family nurse practitioners can help to fill the important need for primary care providers in these communities.
What Education Do Family Nurse Practitioners Have?
All family nurse practitioners are skilled healthcare professionals who have achieved advanced licensure and credentialing beyond what is required to work as a registered nurse (RN). All nurse practitioners must complete graduate education. In addition, some nurse practitioners earn additional post-graduate certificates and even doctoral degrees. Nurse practitioners must be licensed to practice in their states and pass a national certification exam. Throughout their career, nurse practitioners also complete courses in support of continuing their education and growing their knowledge in the healthcare field.
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