A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse (RN) who has completed advanced education (a minimum of a master's degree) and training in the diagnosis and management of common medical conditions, including chronic illnesses. Nurse practitioners provide a broad range of health care services. They provide some of the same care provided by physicians and maintain close working relationships with physicians. An NP can serve as a patient's regular health care provider.
Nurse practitioners see patients of all ages. The core philosophy of the field is individualized care. Nurse practitioners focus on patients' conditions as well as the effects of illness on the lives of the patients and their families. NPs make prevention, wellness, and patient education priorities. This can mean fewer prescriptions and less expensive treatments. Informing patients about their health care and encouraging them to participate in decisions are central to the care provided by NPs. In addition to health care services, NPs conduct research and are often active in patient advocacy activities.
Because the profession is state regulated, care provided by NPs varies. A nurse practitioner's duties include the following:
- Collaborating with physicians and other health professionals as needed, including providing referrals
- Counseling and educating patients on health behaviors, self-care skills and treatment options
- Diagnosing and treating acute illnesses, infections and injuries
- Diagnosing, treating, and monitoring chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure)
- Obtaining medical histories and conducting physical examinations
- Ordering, performing and interpreting diagnostic studies (e.g., lab tests, x-rays, EKGs)
- Prescribing medications
- Prescribing physical therapy and other rehabilitation treatments
- Providing prenatal care and family planning services
- Providing well-child care, including screening and immunizations
- Providing health maintenance care for adults, including annual physicals