Nurse practitioner

A nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice registered nurse and a type of mid-level practitioner.[1][2] NPs are trained to assess patient needs, order and interpret diagnostic and laboratory tests, diagnose disease, formulate and prescribe medications and treatment plans. NP training covers basic disease prevention, coordination of care, and health promotion, but does not provide the depth of expertise needed to recognize more complex conditions.[3]

The scope of practice for a NP is defined by legal jurisdiction.[4][5] In 26 states, NPs have full practice authority, while in the other states, NPs are required to work under the supervision of a physician.[6]

History

United States

The present-day concept of advanced practice nursing as a primary care provider was created in the mid-1960s, spurred on by a national shortage of physicians.[7] The first formal graduate certificate program for NPs was created by Henry Silver, a physician, and Loretta Ford, a nurse, in 1965.[7] In 1971, The U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Elliot Richardson, made a formal recommendation in expanding the scope of nursing practice to be able to serve as primary care providers.[8] In 2012, discussions arose between accreditation agencies, national certifying bodies, and state boards of nursing about the possibility of making the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree the new minimum standard of education for NP certification and licensure by 2015.[9]

Canada

Advanced practice nursing first appeared in the 1990s in Ontario.[10] These nurses practiced in neonatal intensive care units within tertiary care hospitals in collaboration with pediatricians and neonatologists.[10] Although the role of these nurses initially resembled a blended version of clinical nurse specialists and NPs, today the distinction has been more formally established.[10]

Nurse practitioners in the United States

Education requirements

Becoming a nurse practitioner requires at least 1.5 years of post-baccalaureate training.[citation needed] During their studies, nurse practitioners are required to receive a minimum of 500 hours of clinical training. Upon completion of the graduate program, they must pass the National NP Certification Board Exam, specific to their specialization. After passing this exam, candidates must apply for NP licensure which varies by state regulations.[11][12][13]

Although nurse practitioners are required to be licensed as registered nurses prior to obtaining their advanced practice registered nurse certification, there are several programs that combine a nursing undergraduate degree with nurse practitioner training. Other nurse practitioner programs have 100% acceptance rates.[14]

Training pathways

There are many types of nurse practitioner programs in the United States with the vast majority being in the specialty of a family nurse practitioner (FNP).[15] There are also psychiatric, adult geriatric acute care, adult geriatric primary care, pediatric, cardiac, women's health, oncology and neonatal nurse practitioner programs.[citation needed] Many of these programs have their pre-clinical or didactic courses taught online with proctored examinations.[citation needed] Once the students start their clinical courses they have online material, but are required to perform clinical hours at an approved facility under the guidance of an NP or physician.[citation needed] Each clinical course has specific requirements that vary on their program's degree/eligibility for certification. For instance FNPs are required to see patients across the lifespan whereas Adult Geriatric NPs do not see anyone below the age of 13.[16]

Character traits

There are a number of character traits expected in nurse practitioners.[citation needed] When caring for patients, NPs need to be critical thinkers.[citation needed] NPs always need to know the what, when, how, and why to give patently the proper care they need.[citation needed] Communication represents an additional important skill for NPs. NPs communicate with patients about their health history, and other important information. NPs are expected to provide careful instruction and to patients and colleagues to build trusting relationships.[citation needed] They also communicate with colleagues regarding patient scheduling.[citation needed] NPs are also expected to be able to relate to and empathize with sick patients and also family of the patients. Another important trait is confidence. NPs need to be able to communicate with confidence to patients.[citation needed] Empathy is an additional important quality. Nurse practitioners are also expected to be patient in order to provide the level of care needed. Leadership is also emphasized. Being a leader sets the tone of a hard worker. NPs are expected to always be ready to support their team. [17]

Quality of care

A review of studies comparing outcomes of care by NPs and physicians in primary care and urgent care settings were generally comparable, although the strength of the evidence was generally low, with virtually all of the studies sponsored by nursing organizations. [18] A recent study showed nurse practitioners practicing in states with independent prescription authority were more than twenty times more likely to overprescribe opioids than nurse practitioners in prescription-restricted states, the same study identified that both nurse practitioners and Physician Associates were more likely to over-prescribe opioids compared to physicians.[19] Nurse practitioners and physician assistants were also associated with more unnecessary imaging services than primary care physicians, which may have ramifications on care and overall costs.[20]

One systematic review suggests "that the implementation of advanced practice nursing roles in the emergency and critical care settings improves patient outcomes in emergency and critical care settings".[21]

Job setting

Nurse practitioners are currently employed in a wide variety of practice settings. These settings include the ambulatory, inpatient, or emergency room of hospitals, health clinics, and office practices whether private or nurse-run. In addition, they serve in schools and college campuses delivering care as well as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. NPs can work alone or under the supervision of a physician in a wide variety of specializations.[12][22]

Scope of practice

Australia

In Australia, a nurse practitioner-endorsed registered nurse has an expanded scope of practice, allowing them to practice certain advanced clinical skills within their endorsed field.[citation needed] As a nurse practitioner, they can complete advanced health assessments, diagnose and treat diseases, order diagnostic testing such as imaging and pathology, and prescribe medications and therapeutics. Nurse practitioners can, unlike non-endorsed registered nurses, access Medicare (universal healthcare system) payments for the services they provide to patients.[23] A nurse practitioner is not responsible for delegating care tasks to registered nurses in the same way a registered nurse delegates some care tasks to enrolled nurses, but has a senior clinician designation in the hierarchy of clinical staff.

Canada

In Canada, an NP is a registered nurse (RN) with a graduate degree in nursing.[citation needed] Canada recognizes them in primary care and acute care practice. NPs diagnose illnesses and medical conditions, prescribe Schedule 1 medications, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and perform procedures, within their scope of practice, and may build their own panel of patients at the same level as physicians.[24] Primary care NPs work in places like primary care and community healthcare centers, as well as long-term care institutions. The main focus of primary care NPs includes health promotion, preventative care, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic diseases and conditions. Acute care NPs serve a specific population of patients. They generally work in in-patient facilities that include neonatology, nephrology, and cardiology units.[25] There are currently three specialties for nurse practitioners in Canada: family practice, pediatrics, and adult care. NPs who specialize in family practice work at the same level and offer the same services as family physicians with the exclusion of Quebec, where only physicians are allowed to formulate a medical diagnosis.[26]

Ireland

Ireland's publicly funded healthcare system, the Health Service Executive has the advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) grade.[27] ANPs may prescribe medications.[28]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom nurse practitioners carry out care at an advanced practice level. They commonly work in primary care (e.g. GP surgeries) or A&E departments, although they are increasingly being seen in other areas of practice.[citation needed]

United States

Because the profession is state-regulated, the scope of practice varies by state. Some states allow NPs to have full practice authority, however, in other states, a written collaborative or supervisory agreement with a physician is legally required for practice.[29] Autonomous practice was introduced in the 1980s, mostly in states facing a physician shortage or that struggled to find enough healthcare providers to work in rural areas.[30] The extent of this collaborative agreement, and the role, duties, responsibilities, nursing treatments, and pharmacologic recommendations again varies widely between states.[31][32][33]

NPs can legally examine patients, diagnose illness, prescribe some medications, and provide treatments.[citation needed] As of 2022, twenty-six states granted full practice authority to NPs and do not require the supervision or collaboration with a physician. Twenty-four states require NPs to have a written agreement with a physician in order to provide care. Eleven of those states require NPs to be supervised or delegated by a physician, this physician may not be on site.[34]

Licensing and board certification

Australia

In Australia, nursing registration including endorsement of a RN as a nurse practitioner is overseen by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).[citation needed] Registered nurses working in rural and isolated communities can apply for scheduled medicine prescriber endorsement if clinically necessary and trained, and instead become a prescribing registered nurse rather than a nurse practitioner to better meet the need of less-resourced communities.[35] Nurse practitioners are professionally represented by the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners, as well as the Australian College of Nursing. Endorsement as a nurse practitioner in either Australia or New Zealand is recognised by both countries as part of the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Scheme.

For a RN to apply to the NMBA for nurse practitioner endorsement, they must be able to demonstrate they have completed at least 5000 hours (three years, full-time equivalent) at an "advanced nursing practice" level.[citation needed] Advanced nursing practice is loosely defined, and not a specific role, but rather a recognised process of higher-level clinical practice within a nurse's existing scope of practice. The RN must also complete an approved nurse practitioner postgraduate master's degree, or demonstrate they have gained qualifications to an equivalent level in advanced health assessment, pharmacology, therapeutics, diagnostics, and research. Nurses applying through the latter pathway must also demonstrate the equivalent training is clinically relevant to the field for which they wish to apply for nurse practitioner endorsement in.[36]

Canada

In Canada, the educational standard is a graduate degree in nursing.[citation needed] The Canadian Nursing Association (CNA) notes that advanced practice nurses must have a combination of a graduate level education and the clinical experience that prepare them to practice at an advanced level. Their education alone does not give them the ability to practice at an advanced level. Two national frameworks have been developed in order to provide further guidance for the development of educational courses and requirements, research concepts, and government position statements regarding advanced practice nursing: the CNA's Advanced Nursing Practice: A National Framework and the Canadian Nurse Practitioner Core Competency Framework. All educational programs for NPs must achieve formal approval by provincial and territorial regulating nurse agencies due to the fact that the NP is considered a legislated role in Canada. As such, it is common to see differences among approved educational programs between territories and provinces. Specifically, inconsistencies can be found in core graduate courses, clinical experiences, and length of programs. Canada does not have a national curriculum or consistent standards regarding advanced practice nurses. All advanced practice nurses must meet individual requirements set by their provincial or territorial regulatory nursing body.

Israel

As of November 2013, NPs were recognized legally in Israel.[37]

United States

The path to becoming an NP in the U.S. begins by earning an undergraduate degree in nursing and requires licensure and experience as an RN.[citation needed] One must then complete graduate or doctoral studies with additional medical training before taking national board certification testing in their specialty field.[citation needed]

Salary

The salary of an NP generally depends on the area of specialization, location, years of experience, and level of education. In 2015, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) conducted its fourth annual NP salary survey.[citation needed] The results revealed the salary range to be between $98,760 to $108,643 reported income among full-time NPs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, NPs in the top 10% earned an average salary of $135,800. The median salary was $98,190. According to a report published by Merritt Hawkins, starting salaries for NPs increased in dramatic fashion between 2015 and 2016.[citation needed] The highest average starting salary reached $197,000 in 2016. The primary factor in the dramatic increase in starting salaries is skyrocketing demand for NPs, recognizing them as the fifth most highly sought after advanced health professional in 2016.[38]

Importance during the Covid-19 pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, nurse practitioners played an integral role by servicing the need for clinicians during the outbreaks of the crisis.[citation needed] NPs provided quality care to patients testing positive for COVID-19. Temporarily, the pandemic expanded the scope of practice for nurse practitioners as a result of legislative policy adjustments.[39] Under the Trump administration, many requirements for nurse practitioners were waived, permitting NPs to utilize their abilities to the fullest extent in some cases.[40]

See also

References

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