During the week of November 7, Scott & White Healthcare will join the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners in recognizing and thanking its 78 nurse practitioners (NPs) for the care they provide to patients at Scott & White facilities.
This year’s Nurse Practitioners Week theme, “Everyday Heroes,” reflects not only the clinical care NPs provide, but also celebrates the fact that these healthcare professionals partner with their patients to diagnose and treat acute and chronic health problems, with an additional emphasis on providing disease prevention, health education, and counseling, ultimately guiding their patients to making smarter health and lifestyle choices.
“We assist our patients in making decisions that allow them to remain as healthy as possible, both during times of illness and wellness,” said Leslie Russell, MSN, RN, ACNP, a nurse practitioner in the Department of Gastroenterology at Scott & White. “I think nurse practitioners add another dimension to healthcare in that we possess a unique combination of medical and nursing expertise and skills, and focus on the whole person when treating specific health problems. We educate our patients on the effects these problems will have not only on them, but their family and friends as well. We help them to adapt to their unique health problems and provide them with the tools that will empower them to manage those problems well.”
NPs were introduced to the healthcare team in 1965 when Loretta C. Ford, a nursing faculty member at the University of Colorado, partnered with Dr. Henry K. Silver, a pediatrician, to create a program that would train experienced nurses to meet patient needs during a national physician shortage.
NPs are licensed (in every state plus the District of Columbia), independent practitioners who practice autonomously and in collaboration with other healthcare professionals to manage their patients’ health problems and needs. NPs also work in the areas of research and serve as consultants as well as patient advocates.
There are currently about 140,000 practicing NPs throughout the United States, and every year close to 8,000 new NPs receive instruction at more than 325 colleges and universities. All NPs hold graduate, advanced education and clinical training beyond their registered nurse preparation. Most hold master’s degrees and many have doctorates. In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing released a position statement recommending that by 2015 all NPs be doctorate degree prepared before entering practice.
NPs provide services including ordering, performing and interpreting diagnostic tests, diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions, prescribing medications (NPs write approximately 556 million prescriptions annually), and managing their patients’ overall care. They specialize in many clinical areas with Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Women’s Health as three of the areas where a substantial amount of care provided is by a NP.
As the country’s healthcare challenges continue to press on the availability of providers, the role of the nurse practitioner will evolve to respond. “Nurse practitioners combine the roles of provider, mentor, educator, researcher and administrator to provide care that is high-quality, comprehensive, personalized, and patient-centered,” Russell said. “I’m proud to represent my profession and its contributions to the quality care provided to patients by Scott & White.”