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Is a Nurse Practitioner Program Worth It?

In 1965, nurse Loretta Ford along with physician Henry Silver established the first educational program for nurse practitioners (NPs). The focus of their program was on the care of children and families as well as health promotion and prevention of diseases. At the same time, Medicare and Medicaid coverage were extended to low-income women, children, the elderly and the disabled. Additionally, a shortage of primary care physicians was occurring, especially in rural areas, so nurse practitioners were prepared to fill the vacancies.

What Is the Value of a Nurse Practitioner?

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), renamed the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in 2015, recommended in their 2010 report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health that the scope of practice for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) should be extended.

The IOM states that the role of APRNs has evolved over the years to now include services that were historically the domain of physicians. Not only are APRNs prepared to assess, diagnose and treat patients, the IOM notes that they are also qualified to act as social workers, nutritionists and physical therapists.

NPs provide care for patients with both primary and acute conditions. Now more than ever, NPs are needed because of the high demand for healthcare providers. With the population rapidly aging and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the number of Americans with health insurance who need healthcare continues to increase. The older population suffers from many chronic and co-morbid conditions:

  • Arthritis.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Hypertension.
  • Mental health conditions.

NPs are an option for people to access affordable, quality patient care. The Medicare reimbursement rate is lower for NPs than it is for physicians, so the price of care is reduced. Since fewer medical students are becoming primary care physicians, there is still a shortage in rural areas and the southern part of the country.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) expects that the need for primary care will grow over the next five years. The KFF also reports "NPs can provide 80 to 90 percent of the care that primary care physicians offer." Thus, NPs can fill in provider gaps in primary care.

Who Is a Nurse Practitioner?

APRNs complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or doctoral degree program. APRNs can sub-specialize in different populations such as adult gerontology, neonatal care, women's health, pediatrics and psychiatric mental health. There are four roles for APRNs:

  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs).
  • Certified nurse midwives (CNMs).
  • Clinical nurse specialists (CNS).
  • Advanced Practice nurse (APN).

APRNs are prepared to provide the same care as physicians, so they are taking a prominent role in healthcare. All 50 states allow nurse practitioners to prescribe medications, including controlled substances. And in July 2015, the KFF reported that they can diagnose and treat patients without physician involvement in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Nurse Practitioner?

NPs deliver care to patients throughout their lives from birth to old age. Their tasks include the following:

  • Examining patients.
  • Assessing patients.
  • Diagnosing.
  • Ordering tests.
  • Conducting screening.
  • Treating injuries and medical conditions.
  • Prescribing medications.
  • Counseling patients.
  • Educating patients.
  • Referring patients for specialized care.

Where Do NPs Work?

NPs can work in many types of healthcare settings:

  • Ambulatory clinics.
  • Community clinics.
  • Acute care facilities.
  • Hospitals.
  • Long-term care facilities.
  • Physicians' offices.
  • Private practices.
  • Urgent care centers.

What Are the Benefits to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner?

NPs can provide the same type of care as a physician without attending medical school. These nurses prepare for this role by doing clinical rotations and working with patients during a master's degree program.

The job market for NPs is strong. There are abundant opportunities for nurse practitioners, and those who have a specialization are even more marketable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 31 percent growth in NP jobs for the years 2016 to 2026. This rate is much faster than the average for all occupations combined.

Salary potential is another benefit of working as an NP. PayScale.com reports that the median annual salary for NPs is $91,344 as of November 2017. The median annual incomes for the following NP specialties are:

  • Nurse anesthetist - $139,185.
  • Acute care nurse practitioner - $96,626.
  • Urgent care nurse practitioner - $92,875.
  • Clinical nurse specialist - $83,960
  • Certified nurse midwife - $89,015.
  • Family nurse practitioner - $90,733.
  • Pediatrics nurse practitioner - $84,717.

Because of the strain on healthcare systems to provide more qualified healthcare providers, there is a need for NPs. The IOM called for removing barriers to the scope of practice for NPs so that all patients can rely on receiving optimal care. NPs are becoming more commonplace in healthcare settings but there is still a deficit in the number of primary care providers found in rural and urban areas. NPs can make a difference in underserved locations as long as they are not prohibited from providing care without the supervision of a physician.

Learn more about The UTA online nurse practitioner programs.

Learn about The University of Texas at Arlington MSN in Pediatric Primary Care NP online program.

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Sources:

PayScale: Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary (United States)

Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: Historical Perspectives on an Expanded Role for Nursing

U.S. News & World Report: 5 Ways Nursing Graduate School Can Pay Off

American Association of Nurse Practitioners: NP Fact Sheet

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Nurse.org: Nurse Practitioner

Community Catalyst: Primary Care: Expanding the Use of Nurse Practitioners

AJC: Nurse Practitioners Are the Future of Health Care

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health - Report Recommendations

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation: Tapping Nurse Practitioners to Meet Rising Demand for Primary Care

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