Registered Nurses make up the largest segment of workers in the country, numbering over 3 million. However, November 8-14 is a week set aside to recognize an important subset of nurses known as Nurse Practitioners (NPs).
NPs are registered nurses with extended skill sets who run their own practices, usually specializing in primary and preventative care. While not technically doctors, over 95 percent of them hold post-undergraduate degrees with national certifications, and they perform a wide variety of primary care procedures, also specializing in fields such as acute care, oncology, and pediatric health, with an emphasis on long-term holistic health.
NP practices are generally smaller offices with micro staffs and lower overhead, allowing them to deliver their services to communities at a much lower cost than larger providers. You might have even visited an NP care facility for a quick prescription this year – almost 916 million patients rely on them annually for cost-effective, localized healthcare.
However, it has been a struggle for NPs to get the same amount of recognition their hospital-bound counterparts do. While all 50 states and the District of Columbia have legislature on the books allowing NPs to write prescriptions, there are still 28 states that do not allow NPs to fully practice within their borders. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) created Nurse Practitioner Week in 1985 to raise awareness of this fact, and in 2015 they are bringing NPs to the forefront as a possible solution to the healthcare staffing crisis.
The Cost of Care
The idea of shifting common primary and preventative care procedures to smaller private facilities to control costs is not new. Facing a median loss of $176,463 for each new doctor hired, major health networks have been merging with private practitioners at an alarming rate over the last several years in an effort to deflect some of the cost of hiring directly.
However, even after merging with those private practices even the largest health networks can’t have enough doctors for everyone, and that’s the quiet little niche that the more than 200,000 nurse practitioners across the U.S. fill. By working in cooperation with local physicians and hospitals, they give millions of people a low-cost alternative for diagnostic tests, acute and chronic treatments, prescriptions, and general health counseling.