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What Is a Nurse Practitioner

What is a nurse practitioner ? This is the most commonly asked question I hear often on a daily basis. As a floor nurse, I would be in the room passing the morning medications when the nurse practitioner walks in to re assess the newly admitted patient. The patient is greeted by a nurse practitioner wearing a lab coat and immediately asks, “Are you my doctor?”. “No I am not a doctor, I work with the doctor that admitted you to the hospital but I am a nurse practitioner” . The patient replies “Oh so you’re just the nurse?” The nurse practitioner then gives a brief explanation of who he is.

I have heard this questions so many times prompting me to post the answer to the most commonly asked question, “What is a nurse practitioner?” A nurse practitioner, like a doctor, can write most prescriptions, diagnose patients and even have a clinic. The can also order, and interpret results of routine blood test and diagnostics. In addition, just like a doctor, the nurse practitioner can specialize in areas such as family, women, adults, acute care and pediatrics.

To investigate this profession a little further, let further answer the question, “what is a nurse practitioner ?” to better differentiate it from a medical doctor. A Nurse practitioner is also known as an advanced practice nurse that has obtained either a masters or a doctoral degree. All nurse practitioners hold a registered nurse license that have advanced their education and experience to be able to take on the role of diagnosing and treating patients. A difference that exists between a medical doctor and a nurse practitioner is underlying theoretical model that guides their education. Nurse practitioners are educated under the nursing model while the doctor is educated under the medical model.

Nurse practitioners generally have had experience as a registered nurse, caring for the same patient for up to 12 hours a day for several days. The philosophy of the nurse practitioner is that each and everyone are their patients and therefore the care should be individualized. They learn to look at a patient’s condition along with factors such as biological, environmental and psychological. They also take external factors into consideration with treating the patient such as their family. Nurse practitioners currently serve as primary care providers of patients of all ages.

So now we know the answer to the question consistently asked, “what is a nurse practitioner ?” , maybe a further question to think about is “what kind of specialty are available to nurse practitioners?”. Nurse practitioners, like doctors may want to specialize in a specialty area. Certifications for nurse practitioners include various specialties such as  Family health, Pediatrics, Neonatal, Gerontology, Women, Psychiatry and Mental Health, Acute Care, Adult Health, Oncology, Emergency and even Occupational health. Additional roles of a nurse practioners may even include the Certified Nurse midwife, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), and Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). Nurse practitioners can even participate in research. One that is interested in becoming a nurse practitioner should of course look at the educational requirements at the school of interest along with the state practice laws.