Career Development

The Evolving Independence of Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners further their registered nurse qualifications by advancing their skills, education, training, and certifications to become licensed for independent practice. They conduct thorough patient assessments similar to other registered nurses, but an NP can also render a diagnosis, prescribe medications and treatments, and provide overall care. Although health providers typically work well together, a current issue is the necessity of binding collaborative agreements requiring physician oversight of NPs. However, one-third of the nation has adopted full practice authority and licensure regulations for NPs.

Benefits of an Autonomous Practice

Full practice authority grants NPs the legal right to combine their expertise, skill, and education to offer the best care for patients during each visit. Their registered nursing background provides them with a novel approach to patient care, and their advanced training qualifies them for additional functions typically reserved for physicians. Implementing autonomous authority in state practice laws provides patients with direct access to the comprehensive services that NPs are equipped to offer. Other advantages of full practice authority for NPs include:

Reduces expenses. Utilizing NP services avoids billing cost duplications associated with additional and often unnecessary oversight by physicians and repetition of care, office visits, and orders.

Streamlines care. By removing delays in treatment, including regulations requiring a physician signature, protocol, or collaboration, patients receive a comprehensive scope of services from NPs at the point of care.

Protects patient choice. Allowing more options enables patients to select a health care provider of their choosing rather than picking one from a limited list of providers who often have long waiting lists.

Improves accessibility. NPs help reduce the primary care provider workforce shortage by expanding access to essential health care services and eliminating the physician involvement restriction. This is especially advantageous for patients in rural and underserved urban areas.

A nurse practitioner career is multifaceted with multiple opportunities for advancement. If you are considering becoming a nurse practitioner in 2016, many top institutions such as University of Cincinatti now offer online degree programs in this field. Others provide the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program, which is the highest level of nursing education possible.

Certifications, Licensure, and Educational Requirements

Educational requirements vary depending on the specialty. However, after becoming a licensed registered nurse, all NPs must earn either a master’s or doctoral degree that incorporates clinical and didactic coursework. Also, after earning a post-graduate degree, NPs must provide evidence of fulfilling continuing medical education credits and renew their licenses every two years. Many organizations also require national certification for NPs, a process similar to board certification for physicians.

Choosing a Nurse Practitioner

The NP’s focus is on health management and disease prevention. The emphasis on patient education appeals to many people seeking additional medical guidance. NPs foster a collaborative partnership with patients by listening to their needs. Over half of the NPs in the U.S. work in adult or family practices, but you can find them in a variety of different health care settings. For instance, some choose to specialize in acute care, pediatrics, oncology, Neonatology, psychiatric health, gerontology, and women’s health.

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