What is a Nurse Practitioner?
A nurse practitioner (NP) is a healthcare provider who works independently to manage people’s medical problems and prevent illness. Nurse practitioners often specialize in a specific patient population, for example, children, adults, women, or elderly individuals. Some nurse practitioners may specialize in a medical field such as cardiology, oncology, or dermatology. Currently, Village Dermatology is extremely fortunate to have the expertise of Wendy Cantrell, DNP, CRNP available to serve our patients. Wendy is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner (CRNP) with years of experience in dermatology. However, before we get to that information, let’s examine some of the common questions you might have about nurse practitioners.
What kind of training do nurse practitioners receive? Where do they work? And how do they help improve healthcare in the United States? Read on to learn more.
Nurse Practitioners: A Brief History
The first nurse practitioner program was developed in the mid-1960s in Colorado as a certificate program by Henry Silver, MD, and Loretta Ford, RN, EdD. Ford is widely acknowledged as an international leader in nursing education. She was one of the first people to recognize that nurses with advanced education could improve healthcare, address the critical shortage of health providers, and improve access to healthcare in rural areas.
Silver and Ford jointly developed the nurse practitioner curriculum for pediatric practice. This program has been widely replicated in many fields of medicine, including gerontology, family health, mental health, and dermatology. The program developed by Ford and Silver became a master’s degree program in the 1970s. In 1977, the profession was further standardized with certification exams. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners was founded in 1985. From an estimated 15,000 nurse practitioners in the US in 1979, the number grew to more than 200,000 NPs in 2015. It is estimated that there will be 244,000 NPs in the US by 2025.
What do nurse practitioners do?
What a specific NP does depends largely on their specialization and the state where they practice. In general, nurse practitioners provide healthcare services to a diverse population of patients in primary care, acute, and specialty settings.
A nurse practitioner is authorized to consult with a patient, obtain a medical history, perform an examination, order diagnostic tests, diagnose an illness, and treat a medical condition. Nurse practitioners also provide evidence-based counseling to patients to prevent illness and optimize health.
When you see a dermatology nurse practitioner, for example, you can expect to receive a thorough medical evaluation, diagnosis, medications (in some states), and individualized treatment plans for your skin, hair, and nail conditions. They will elicit a detailed medical history from you, conduct a physical examination, perform a medication review, and order and interpret laboratory studies if needed. The nurse practitioner may consult a dermatologist or other healthcare providers to provide you with comprehensive healthcare. Once the NP has diagnosed your condition, they will offer the appropriate treatment, follow up on your progress, and maintain detailed medical records.
The important thing to note is that NP’s do not see patients merely as people with a specific medical problem. Rather, they often serve as counselors, mentors, and advisors, and therefore provide a more holistic healthcare experience.
How are nurse practitioners trained?
Becoming a nurse practitioner takes up to 8 years of rigorous education. This includes 4 years to complete a bachelor’s level nursing program to become a registered nurse. Then, there are another 2-3 years to obtain a master’s degree. Plus, there’s additional time, approximately 1 year, to pass the certification examination.
A qualified nurse practitioner or APRN (advanced practice registered nurse) is one who has completed a master’s degree program or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. In addition to the master’s degree, NPs must have state licensure to practice. Those interested in further specialization must undergo credentialing from various associations such as the American Association of Critical Care Nurses or the Dermatology Nursing Certification Board.
As noted, an NP must complete a specialized nursing program and become certified in the specialty of their choosing. Meaning, when you see a dermatology nurse practitioner, you are seeing a healthcare provider who holds a masters or doctoral degree in nursing sciences, is licensed with the state as an advanced practice nurse, is board certified by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), and has specialization in dermatology medicine (Wendy has 20 years in dermatology). That’s a lot of education and training!
Where do nurse practitioners work?
Nurse practitioners work in a variety of medical settings and specialties. In addition to being a general NP, a nurse practitioner may specialize in a specific population of patients, for example, the elderly, children, or women. Also, nurse practitioners may choose to practice in a specific medical field, for example, family medicine, acute care, pediatrics, gerontology, neonatal care, women’s health, orthopedics, sports medicine, neurology, urology, and dermatology.
The scope of NP practice varies by state. In full practice states, nurse practitioners have complete authority, i.e., they can work without the direct supervision of a physician. In restricted practice states, NPs need to collaborate with a licensed physician who must sign off on certain medical decisions. However, even in these states, NPs still have more authority than registered nurses (RNs), and their responsibilities are similar to doctors.
How do nurse practitioners fit into my dermatology care?
Here at Village Dermatology, we see our nurse practitioners as an integral part of the medical team. There is so much demand for experienced dermatology care that many of our patients prefer to see our nurse practitioners because of their dermatology expertise and availability to see patients in a more timely manner. We are so thankful that we can provide our patients with outstanding nurse practitioners like Wendy Cantrell, DNP, CRNP. If you would like to schedule an appointment with any of our medical providers, please call us or fill out a form, and we will get you in as soon as possible.