The Nurse Practitioner Will See You Now

That is what many people are beginning to hear quite frequently. However, many individuals don’t know what a nurse practitioner is and how they differ from medical doctors.

Nurse practitioners are nurses that go to school for advanced training to become a health care provider. Legally, as a nurse, I can not diagnose, write orders, or prescribe medications. I only carry out those orders. However, as a nurse practitioner, I can diagnose, write orders (such as labs, x-rays, MRI, CT, etc.), and prescribe. Graduate level schooling for a nurse practitioner can include a masters, post-masters, or doctorate degree. Many people wonder if nurse practitioners are qualified to complete such tasks. Nurse practitioners are trained and go through rigorous clinicals to become well equipped to complete all tasks. Many nurse also wait to become a nurse practitioner so they can gain experience and clinical knowledge at the bedside, before transitioning to a provider role. Therefore, that “on-the-job” training and experience as a nurse is also important to factor in with nurse practitioners.

On the other hand, medical doctors go through a doctorate level course and then have up to 4-6 years of clinical residency, depending on specialty. Many doctors believe that nurse practitioners (NPs) are unqualified to practice more autonomously because the NP does not go through the years of clinical residency a doctor completes. However, many doctors forget that NPs were nurses at the bedside before they became an NP. This “at-the-bedside” training is vitally important because it develops the critical thinking necessary for a health care provider. Some classmates that I am in school with have been a nurse for up to 10 years! In my humble opinion, that is way more than qualified!

I will go ahead and say that I am NOT advocating for NPs to replace MDs. However, there is a primary care crisis in health care. Allowing nurse practitioners to step up and practice to the fullest of their training will help MDs by decreasing burnout, increasing patient satisfaction, and by looking through the lens of preventative medicine, there-by decreasing the heavy workload that MDs carry. As one of my professors in grad school stated, “There’s plenty of patients to go around.” What she meant by that is MDs do not have to fear “losing” patients to NPs. There will always be people seeking health care.

In the future, and as I learn more in grad school, I will post more about the difference in theory between the medical model and nursing model of training. This time in health care is an exciting time for change and growth! However, it is important that during this time, we do our research and only advocate for materials based on hard-facts and most recent evidence-based practice to ensure the safety of the patient.

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