Nurse practitioners offer health care optionJamestown and the United States will both celebrate the role nurse practitioners play in modern health care this week, which is National Nurse Practitioner Week.
By: By Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Jamestown and the United States will both celebrate the role nurse practitioners play in modern health care this week, which is National Nurse Practitioner Week.
Nurse practitioners are sometimes described as occupying a niche in between that of the registered nurse and that of a doctor, but their work has a different emphasis.
Like RNs, they promote health, disease prevention and spend time educating patients. Like doctors, they can prescribe medication and diagnose illnesses.
And in 17 states, including North Dakota, nurse practitioners can be primary care providers, without having to collaborate with a physician — although many of them do.
“It’s always been a goal of mine, ever since becoming a nurse … to be a nurse practitioner, simply because they have more involvement in directing patient care and more independent abilities to diagnose and prescribe medication,” said Tania Busch, of Jamestown.
Busch is a registered nurse, but will graduate from the University of North Dakota’s nurse practitioner program in May. She will join the approximately 12 NPs already practicing in Jamestown, and the 550 licensed NPs in North Dakota.
Nurse practitioners do not go to medical school, but they do have additional training beyond what is standard for an RN, Busch said. Typically, a person must have a bachelor’s degree to become a registered nurse, and then the RN program takes 2-4 years.
Nurse practitioners must have a master’s degree at minimum, in addition to being a registered nurse. However, the trend is for universities to have an academic doctorate program for nurse practitioners instead. Typically, a master’s degree takes two years and an academic doctorate degree takes three.
While about 2 million registered nurses work in the United States, there are only 155,000 nurse practitioners.
Nurse practitioners have been part of health care teams across America beginning with the first NP academic program at the University of Colorado in 1965.
Supervision requirements and allowed duties vary from state to state. In North Dakota, NPs can prescribe medicine and can operate independently, without physician supervision.
Nurse practitioners can see any kind of patient, not just patients with chronic illnesses or specific types of illnesses. Just like a primary care physician, NPs can collaborate with other health care workers and refer complex cases to specialists.
“As an NP, a lot of our focus is on overall health and well-being of our clients, so we’re taking into account not only their medical but their psychological, their spiritual, their social,” Busch said.
They look at every aspect of a patient’s life, and emphasize health promotion and illness prevention, with plenty of health education.
According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 48.3 percent of nurse practitioners focus on family care from birth to death, 19.3 percent focus on adult care and the remainder work in women’s health, pediatric care, acute care, gerontology and other specialties.
Nurse practitioners can be found in many health care facilities in Jamestown, Busch said, from local clinics to the North Dakota State Hospital, the South Central Human Service Center and Central Valley Health District.
In 2011, the average full-time NP made $98,760 a year, according to the AANP.
“I think a lot of people think that maybe, you see a nurse practitioner if you have a cold because it’s something easy to treat, and I don’t think a lot of people see that nurse practitioners are capable of seeing more complex patients,” Busch said. “It needs to be put out there — we do see and treat and diagnose patients. We’re not just there for those common colds.”
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by