The apt description of a nurse practitioner, or NP, is that he or she is one of the most respected, sought-after, versatile, dedicated, and valuable of all medical professionals.
A U.S. News and World Report survey ranked nurse practitioner as the third best career in the health-care field according to such factors as salary, employment prospects, work-life balance, and level of job stress.
In fact, NPs ranked #4 among the best 100 of all jobs—ahead of physicians.
Much of the desirability of an NP career goes beyond its lucrative salary and job prospects. Some is due to the nature of the work itself—which not only requires treating patients, but also counseling them in best health-care practices. NPs adopt a rewarding, holistic approach to patient care, guiding their clients toward behavior and practices that promote healthy living and prevent the onset of illness or injury. Some NPs specialize in palliative care for people with life-limiting illnesses, providing not only medical care but also emotional and spiritual support to enrich the quality of life of both the patient and his or her family. Other, similar specialty fields are available in NP work as well—all with the reward of enabling patients to benefit from health care beyond the clinical setting.
It’s no wonder that, according to a Medscape article cited at Allnursingschools.com, “nurse practitioners received higher marks from patients than primary care physicians when it comes to screenings, assessments, and follow-up exams.”
It’s clear that nurse practitioners are well-compensated for their work, have a broad vista of career prospects and opportunities in front of them—and give out a lot of love and get the same in return for their work.
This post provides some specifics about nurse practitioners—who they are, where they work, and what they need to be successful on the job. Other information—on salaries and job prospects—is available as well, adding to the allure of this estimable, fulfilling profession.
Nurse Practitioners—At a Glance
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). NPs serve as primary and specialty-care providers, delivering advanced nursing services and basic medical treatment and care to patients and their families, including diagnostic and referral services as necessary.
What distinguishes NPs from other health care providers is their focus on health promotion, disease prevention, and holistic patient education and counseling. They take a diagnostic approach to patient wellness by formulating specific behavioral and health regimens that patients may integrate into their lifestyle. As part of their patient-centered approach, NPs take due diligence to understand each patient’s unique concerns and lifestyle in determining treatment regimens—including concerns like out-of-pocket costs.
Nurse.org cites a Kaiser Family Foundation report which estimates that nurse practitioners provide 80 to 90 percent of the care that primary care physicians offer. In many states, in fact, NPs have full practice authority, autonomous from physicians. In all states, NPs provide the following range of health-care services:
- Performing physical exams and administering medications, including immunizations.
- Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions and minor injuries.
- Prescribing medications and other treatments, and evaluating patient response.
- Recording medical histories and symptomatology.
- Performing, ordering, and analyzing diagnostic tests such as lab work and X-rays.
- Creating patient care plans or contributing to existing plans.
- Operating and monitoring medical equipment.
Most NPs also conduct and publish independent research, particularly as they move into specialty areas. In addition, they coordinate or participate in professional seminars to impart or enhance their clinical experience, and they organize community forums to promote health education and the availability of clinical services.
Job Prospects for NPs Are among the Most Promising of All Professions
According to a 2015 article in Forbes magazine—
“When it comes to what a hospital or health system needs to fill the vacancies in a medical staff, primary care doctors like family physicians and internists have long been the top need. But climbing the ranks and jumping past many doctor specialties on the demand scale aren’t physicians at all. They’re nurse practitioners . . . who are filling a critical role for the healthcare industry.”
Statistics support this anecdotal information. Between 2016 and 2026, BLS projects that job growth for nurse practitioners will reach 31 percent—far outpacing job growth for other professions. That translates into the addition of 64,200 jobs by 2026. As of 2017, the American Association for Nurse Practitioners (AANP) says that more than 234,000 NPs are already working in the United States.
There are a few basic reasons for this growth:
- The baby-boomer population born in the years after World War II has now aged—and with them comes a greater demand for services, including long-term care.
- Long-term care is becoming longer, because the baby-boomer generation is also living longer than previous generations—particularly with advancements in medical care and treatment.
- Medical advancements also mean that treatments for many diseases, including treatments like chemotherapy, are now being provided in outpatient facilities.
- People prefer advanced non-hospital treatment because they’re also more savvy about healthcare in general, including health regimens that embrace a more holistic approach to healthcare, including nutritional supplementation.
With the holistic approach that NPs bring to the health-care sector, nurse practitioners, as Forbes suggests, have become the health provider of choice. Each year, Americans make more than 870 million visits to NPs.
Up Next… Credentials and Skills
Author: Katy Willis
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