Many Americans are turning to nurse practitioners for medical care because of doctors' busy schedules and long wait times. Nurse practitioners have advanced degrees and can treat and diagnose a variety of issues without doctor supervision. In addition to providing urgent care, admitting people to hospitals, interpreting tests and prescribing medicine, nurse practitioners also take the time to establish long-term health plans with patients that focus on prevention and behavioral changes. In some ways, nurse practitioners are seen as a mix between the personal care of a nurse and the expertise of a doctor. This might be why nurse practitioners have 600 million visits from patients in the U.S. each year, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
Whether you're thinking of continuing education from an R.N., L.P.N. or medical assistant position to become a nurse practitioner, or if you're already a nurse practitioner, there are a few helpful tips for NPs to keep in mind.
Deal with health holistically
Although patients will often come to you with physical problems, it doesn't mean that there aren't also mental, behavioral or environmental issues that may need help. If you don't approach each patient with an eye out for his or her holistic health, you may miss aspects that could help prevent future issues. Sometimes this can mean asking about behaviors that can lead to further health problems, while other times it can mean treating illness-caused secondary conditions such as depression following a chronic diagnosis. Pediatric nurse practitioner Mary Margaret Gottesman, an associate professor at The Ohio State University, told ADVANCE for Nurse Practitioners that delivering holistic health care to her patients often meant including their whole families.
"Make sure to learn as much about managing mental health and social problems and how to create effective partnerships with others as you do about managing physical illnesses," Gottesman said. "I try to instill in my students that if I have only cared for the child, I have only cared for half my patient; and if I have only cared for the child's physical health, I have only met half or less of the child's health needs."
Dress the part
Nurse practitioners need to be dressed for professionalism as well as functionality. Depending on their shift, patients and tasks, some nurse practitioners may change between scrubs and more professional dress. People may want to consider stylish nonslip nurse shoes that can allow them to look professional and safely navigate slippery floors and fluid spills.
Take advantage of collaboration
Doctors and nurse practitioners make excellent teammates in a practice or in neighboring practices, women's health nurse practitioner Kim Sakovich explained on Kevin MD. She wrote that as a tandem, doctors and nurse practitioners can help one another to ensure that patients get seen more quickly and that all needs are being met. One can fill in for another while the other is out, which is significantly more convenient for patients. This collaboration can allow doctors and nurse practitioners to both expand their practices.
Listen to patients
Sakovich also explained that patients are much more likely to talk about certain problems to her and her colleagues than many doctors. Whether it's because doctors are more intimidating or nurse practitioners come off as friendlier, patients may be willing to dole out more information without much prodding by NPs. More information can lead to better care, so make sure you're listening to your patients and asking the right questions. Sometimes the personal information or questions that patients find embarrassing can be the most important to solving a medical mystery.
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