There are more nurses working in the US compared to any other healthcare professional. The nursing profession has experienced a huge amount of growth over the years, leading to increased growth in the number of advanced practice registered nurses and other advanced professionals like nurse practitioners, who are highly trained in diagnosing, treating, and prescribing medication to patients.

Nurse practitioners are professionals who are required to possess at least a master’s degree in nursing, and they should also be certified by a professional nursing organization in order to practice. Nurse practitioners need to be licensed to provide care that is consistent with their area of specialization or expertise, complying with specific state laws that set out the scope of nursing practice. Certain states will allow nurse practitioners full practice authority, where they can run clinics, diagnose health conditions and prescribe medication without the need for supervision from a physician, while other states require a physician to sign off on certain patient care decisions that are made by a nurse practitioner.

Either way, nurse practitioners are becoming increasingly more necessary to healthcare in the US, with over 140,000 registered nurse practitioners working in the country. They are having a positive impact on the healthcare system that is growing steadily over time leading to further demand. Nurse practitioners work in a wide range of healthcare settings including both public and private healthcare practices, workplaces, schools, prisons, and more. Depending on the state, they may work independently or in collaboration with doctors. New retail clinics are providing different forms of primary patient care delivery which is often headed by nurse practitioners.

Here are some of the main ways in which nurse practitioners are having an impact on the healthcare system of today.

Improving the Quality of Patient Care:

Research has long suggested that nurse practitioners are equipped to provide an equal standard of patient care to that of primary care physicians. In terms of patient satisfaction, recovery and mortality rates, nurse practitioners have been shown to be just as effective as medical doctors, which is why they are in increasingly higher demand to close the gap that has been caused by the current shortage of medical doctors in the US. Doctor’s offices that are looking to increase their patient numbers but are struggling to do this due to the shortage of primary care physicians making it difficult to hire new doctors. As a result, they will often decide to work with nurse practitioners instead.

Closing the Doctor Shortage Gap:

With fewer medical students looking to work in primary care, family practice and general medicine compared to the increasing population of chronically ill and elderly patients in the US, there’s a serious shortage of medical doctors compared to the needs of the population. While there are many incentives for doctors to get into primary care, primary care training programs for nurse practitioners are conversely growing in popularity, often in thanks to the increase in flexible online training programs for nurses looking to become a nurse practitioner such as the Texas Women’s University’s Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program. Online nurse practitioner training programs offered by Texas Womans University are designed to be flexible enough for full-time nurses to fit around work and other commitments, making it easier for aspiring nurse practitioners to meet their future career goals.

Providing Doctors With Greater Reach:

In certain states, nurse practitioners are not permitted to work independently from doctors and are lawfully required to have a primary care physician sign off on certain patient decisions that they make. However, even in states where nurse practitioners do not have the option to work independently, they can help the medical profession by allowing medical doctors to operate their practices more efficiently and take on higher patient numbers. This will often lead to a reduced number of emergency room visits that are unnecessary and make it easier for patients to get the non-urgent primary care that they need. Difficulties scheduling appointments are often reduced for patients that visit a clinic where nurse practitioners are present since despite the need to have some decisions signed off by the doctor, nurse practitioners are often able to conduct appointments unsupervised and therefore free up time to see more patients and help medical doctors expand their reach.

Retail Clinic Growth:

One of the main ways in which nurse practitioners have helped to expand the healthcare industry is through the introduction of retail clinics, which have become an increasingly popular way for patients to get the care that they need in recent times. Retail clinics can often be found at popular supermarkets and stores and provide patients with a convenient way of getting advice and medical attention for minor issues while going about their everyday life. There are currently over six thousand retail clinics in the country, often found at big supermarket brands like Target and Walmart. They provide a convenient alternative for patients who are looking for medical assistance and advice that might not require a doctor’s appointment or visit the Emergency Rooms, and they are often run by nurse practitioners who are able to expand the public’s access to based healthcare services and advice.

Providing Team-Based Healthcare Services:

As primary care doctors become more and more overwhelmed with the aging population and increase in chronically ill patients in need of healthcare, coupled with the lack of medical students choosing this career path, team-based healthcare is becoming increasingly more essential to getting the patient care results that are needed. Teams provided healthcare in various settings around the country are often made up of primary care physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, nurse technicians, other healthcare assistants, and more. Typically, nurse practitioners can be found working in team-based healthcare environments where they are working alongside other key healthcare professionals to provide the best standard of care to their patients.

Improving Patient Care Quality:

One of the main ways that nurse practitioners are improving the healthcare industry as we know it in the US is by improving the standards of patient care. The US falls behind other developed nations in surveys for delivering high-quality healthcare services – an issue that nurse practitioners are working hard to resolve.

According to a study carried out by the Commonwealth Fund, the United States has the lowest healthcare performance in relation to cost, coming in at the bottom of eleven countries around the world including the UK, Germany, and Canada for factors such as efficiency, quality, and patient access to healthcare.

By leading the change for improvement and providing access to high-quality, team-based healthcare services, nurse practitioners are working to change this situation and improve the quality of patient care across the board. They provide patient care that is safe, patient-centered, evidence-based, timely, and equitable. By mitigating the shortage of primary care physicians by providing a standard of care that is equal to that provided by doctors, nurse practitioners have led to patients reporting higher satisfaction with the care that they receive, fewer unnecessary Emergency Room visits, and lower rates of patient readmissions to hospital.

Better Healthcare Access:

Nurse practitioners are working together to ensure that good healthcare is something that all patients have access to. This is especially true throughout rural and remote areas where the healthcare provided may not be as easy to access compared to cities and urban areas across the US. In states where nurse practitioners have the authority to work independently from primary care physicians, they will often work to improve the access to healthcare in these rural and remote areas where healthcare facilities are scarce by operating their own private practices. As a result, this has increased the amount of and level of medical care that is available to patients in these areas despite the shortage of medical doctors.

Reducing Healthcare Costs:

While there has been little in terms of studies that are designed to compare the cost of care delivered by nurse practitioners to that provided by a primary care physician, research into insurance claims for both nurse practitioner and medical doctor care found that nurse practitioners tend to cost less. In Massachusetts, for example, some studies have revealed that the average cost of visiting a nurse practitioner for medical attention will cost up to 30% less compared to visiting a primary care physician for the same issue.

Promoting a Patient-Centered Approach to Healthcare:

Nurse practitioners stand out from other healthcare professionals due to their patient-centered healthcare approach, which is in line with the fact that the majority of nurse practitioners have come from a career as a registered nurse. Nurse practitioners are often focused on both preventative care and finding a cure for patient diseases, which has had a positive impact on the quality of healthcare delivered around the country. Nurse practitioners not only bring advanced clinical abilities to the table but are also more likely to treat their patients in a very holistic way, with a person-centered understanding of patient health and wellbeing. Nurse practitioner programs focus on providing patient care that is all-encompassing and consider the various different factors that will impact patient health and wellbeing. Nurse practitioners are healthcare professionals who will work with patients in order to educate them on health improvement and disease prevention, providing health counseling and education that prepares patients to make better decisions for their own health.

Offering Personalized Patient Care:

Patients today are demanding a more personal approach to the healthcare they are paying for, and rightly so. In 2018, surveys found that around seventy percent of patients want a more personalized healthcare experience and would prefer their healthcare provider to take more personal factors into account when considering their physical and mental health. Nurse practitioners are the healthcare professionals making this happen around the country. Since they are experienced nurses and trained in a patient-centered approach to care, they focus on the health and wellbeing of the entire person and take individual factors into account when treating patients; an approach that makes them stand out from other healthcare providers and has so far had a positive impact on modern healthcare today. Nurse practitioner students go further than simply learning about medicine and clinical practice; working to understand all the different internal and external personal factors that can have an impact on a patient’s health.

Also Read: How to make a positive impact in your healthcare career

Better Healthcare Policy:

Nurse practitioners are often the biggest advocates for their patients, working hard to improve the standards of patient care provided in the US and improve healthcare policy across the board. All of the issues that have been highlighted in the healthcare system have led to a need for some very important changes that nurse practitioners are working to facilitate. Thanks to nurse practitioners, there has recently been a large push for new healthcare policies that are designed to ensure that patients are provided with the best standards of care and the best healthcare outcomes. Nurse practitioners are having an impact on all aspects of patient care, extending beyond the lives of individual patients and communities. Nurse practitioners are working to help design and implement a holistic healthcare system that focuses on offering both physical and financial protection to patients, making it easier for everybody to access the patient care that they need and taking every patient’s personal circumstances into account when offering treatment.

Becoming a Nurse Practitioner:

If you want a career where you can have a significant impact on healthcare, becoming a nurse practitioner could be right for you. To enter this profession, you will first need to qualify as a registered nurse with a BSN and gain experience in the field. Nurse practitioners will typically be required to hold at least a master’s degree in nursing, which you can get on-campus or online while working as a nurse. There are additional advanced programs that you can take to become a family nurse practitioner or a nurse practitioner working in another area of healthcare such as adult-gerontology, neonatal, or psychiatric advanced nursing.

Today, nurse practitioners are becoming an increasingly essential part of healthcare. They work to improve patient care, implement better policies and educate patients on making better health decisions.