Nurse practitioners occupy a unique and increasingly important place in our healthcare system. Here are some of the things they do better than anyone else:
Treating patients in rural and inner city settings where doctors won’t go.
The American medical system is increasingly overstretched. Nurse practitioners are now the only practitioners available in local clinics where physicians don’t want to practice. With their ability to diagnose symptoms and prescribe drugs, NPs bring high quality primary care to people across the country who would not otherwise get the care they need.
Giving holistic care.
Nurses are taught throughout their training to have empathy for the patient and to focus on the human element in everything they do. Doctors, on the other hand, tend to take a more scientific approach to care. Nurse practitioners have a unique ability to utilize many different treatment options, without ever forgetting to sit quietly and hold a patient’s hand now and then, to ease the patient’s fears.
Keeping healthcare costs down.
Because nurse practitioners are less expensive to train than doctors, they’re less costly for hospitals to hire. That means hospitals can keep enough of them on staff to provide consistent, advanced care to all patients – something that is becoming prohibitively expensive to do with a full staff of physicians.
Following up with patients after they are discharged from the hospital.
Hospitals today are under enormous pressure to get patients discharged as quickly as possible. But those patients, many of whom have been through surgery, still need a great deal of follow up care. Nurse practitioners now man the many offices, independent clinics and hospital clinics where longer term “outpatient” care is delivered. As such, they’re extremely important in seeing that patients don’t get sick a second time and have to be re-admitted to the hospital.
Delivering truly specialized care to the elderly.
The aging of America is a big problem for hospitals, who find it difficult to provide long term care for the chronic problems of the elderly. Many nurse practitioners have jumped into the gap, gaining specialized knowledge in treating issues like obesity or diabetes, or specializing in treatment of flu and other pandemics that threaten older folks, but aren’t a big area of focus for MDs.