2 Your Health: Nurse Practitioner? I want to see a doctor!

Tracy Cook, NP-C

Since I began submitting articles for the Pioneer Press medical column, I have fielded a variety of questions about the role of Nurse Practitioners (NP’s). If you are old enough to live at Robson Ranch, there is a good chance that you grew up with a single-family doctor; a friendly general MD who took care of your entire family. Unfortunately, that situation is long gone. Today, many MD’s are specialists that you see only when referred to them for a specific condition. In the constantly changing world of health care, extensive training is required to keep up with the latest technology. As more MD’s moved into specialties, new positions have been emerging to augment MD’s. These include Physician’s Assistants (PA’s) and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (NP’s). PA’s education is centered around the medical model, where you treat symptoms. NP’s education is based on a nursing model which tends to be more holistic, where they treat the whole person rather than just the symptoms. Both groups require extensive education and experience and have rigid standards and are certified professionals.

Many schools now offer programs for NP’s, who enter with years of experience as an RN. As with MD’s, the NP’s receive additional training in specialized fields such as family, adult, geriatric and pediatric areas. NP’s are trained and qualified to perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat medical conditions, order medical tests such as x-ray’s, MRIs, blood work and they can write prescriptions.

Today’s NP’s are working in many different areas. Medical offices, where the patients usually have more contact with a NP than with the doctor. Walk in clinics as found in stores such as CVS, Walgreens and Target. House calls where patients have difficulty getting to an actual office. A re-emergence of a traditional role. Hospitals where acute care is given. Many entrepreneurial NP’s are now owning their own practices. These NP owned practices are commonly found in suburban or rural communities where there might be an underserved population. Senior citizens in retirement communities are particularly pleased to have professional medical care coming to their neighborhoods, thus saving them the problems of traveling into busy cities with traffic and parking problems.

Currently there are 23 states that allow NP’s to practice independently and to the full extent of their education. In Texas, NP’s are still required to have a delegating MD, with monthly face to face meetings and collaboration on complex patients. There have been multiple studies that show the care given by NP’s is as good as a physician and in some areas the care is better.

So, the next time you get to see a NP rather than a doctor, don’t feel like you are getting less care. You might even be getting more!

Tracy Cook is an Adult Nurse Practitioner who owns and operates a private medical practice: Adult Health Services and Argyle Med-spa and Wellness Center is a resident of Robson Ranch and a Living Well committee member. For any questions or more information please visit her website: www.Argylemedspa.com.