Home Care 101: What is a Nurse Practitioner?

Training & Responsibilities of a Nurse Practitioner

It’s no secret that the demand for qualified health care professionals will grow as the American population ages and the percentage of Americans 65 or older increases.  Recent projections estimate that by 2050, there will be almost 30 million more seniors living in America, and that population will make up 20 percent of the country’s population (currently this group accounts for 15 percent).  Meanwhile, the number of medical students becoming primary care physicians is at an all-time low, leading some experts to believe the US health care system will face a shortage of more than 400,000 primary care physicians by 2030.  Nurse Practitioner

While these numbers might appear disconcerting, 22 states, including New York, are already addressing these trends by giving Nurse Practitioners (NP) a freer hand in caring for clients, giving them a level of clinical and organizational independence traditionally reserved for full-fledged physicians and ensuring patients receive the care they need.

In this article, we will take a closer look at this growing population of medical professionals to better understand their training and responsibilities.

What tasks can a Nurse Practitioner perform?  

Fortunately for our growing population, NP’s have a similar set of abilities as traditional primary care physicians, performing patient assessments, diagnosing diseases, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests like X-rays, developing care plans and prescribing medication.  Some can even perform minor surgical procedures, however NP’s require state-specific credentialing for this ability.

In short, NP’s can perform almost all tasks traditionally covered by full-fledged doctors, however, different states regulate this class of caregiver differently.  There are currently 22 states in which NP’s can operate without any oversight or ongoing relationship with a physician, and recent trends indicate many other states will soon push for similar legislation to allow NP’s to more quickly tend to the needs of their patients.  In New York State, NP’s with more than 3,600 clinical hours of experience can operate without a physician’s oversight.

As with other state-to-state legal variances, the biggest confusion arises where state and federal regulations cross paths.  For example, Medicare will not provide qualified recipients with reimbursement for home health care services prescribed by NPs without the additional sign off of a physician, however there is a growing body of legislators aiming to amend these requirements.

What training does a Nurse Practitioner receive?

NP Training is thorough, however somewhat different from traditional doctors.  Becoming a nurse practitioner requires a bachelor’s degree in nursing, licensing as a registered nurse, a master’s degree and advanced clinical training.  NPs also undergo national certification, peer review and clinical outcome evaluations.

While this level of training allows NPs to cover a wide variety of medical needs, physicians spend more time in training overall.  Medical doctors obtaining a four-year undergraduate degree spend four years in medical school and between three to seven years in residency.

It should be noted that most NP’s begin their medical careers as Registered Nurses, meaning they oftentimes have extensive experience providing one-on-one patient care and can sometimes be more attuned to the moment-to-moment needs of their patients as a result of their extensive bedside experience.

Nurse Practitioners in the field

NP’s can be found in a variety of clinical settings, ranging from hospitals to urgent care clinics and in home care settings.  Health care services that offer in-home doctor’s visits were some of the first providers to rely heavily on the flexibility and mobility of this level of caregiver to perform assessments, develop plans of care and serve as a patient’s primary point of contact while receiving treatment.

SelectCare Home Care Services of NY hope this article answers some of your questions about this increasingly important group of medical caregivers and allow you to make informed decisions about your personal health care.  In SelectCare’s more than 30 years of experience, we have learned that a well-informed community is a healthy community, and our team of home health care experts are here every day to help you find solutions for whatever challenges you face.

To learn more about how we help New Yorkers live happier, more independent lives in the comfort of their long-time homes, call SelectCare today or request a free home health care guide.