Posted: Monday, November 13, 2023

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

To kick off National Nurse Practitioner Week (November 12-18), we’d like to thank all our nurse practitioners for the level of care they provide our community. These providers are highly educated, highly dedicated individuals trained to take care of your emotional and physical health. To become a nurse practitioner (NP), first a bachelor's degree in nursing is required, then additional time and training is spent in a Master of Nursing program. Much like a traditional M.D. program, these providers also must complete clinicals, including hands-on training with patients, and pass a licensing or certification exam.

What does this mean for you as a patient? Nurse practitioners work autonomously, although their work is overseen by a physician. Much like your primary care doctor, NPs have their own patient load, and do their own charting, referrals and follow-up visits. The main difference is the supervising physician is an additional resource they can tap into, if needed. “Our doctors don’t have to see our patients or look at every note we take, but they review a percentage of our charts,” Jamie Bradshaw, nurse practitioner at East Tennessee Medical Group said. In addition to the regular patient load, NPs usually have time slots available for urgent issues that may need to be seen the same day. “Due to Medicare guidelines, most physicians have a limited timeframe available to their patients. I feel as NPs, we can spend more time with the patient and delve into more than just one acute need. NPs and doctors work together for the benefit of the patient and to address all the patient’s needs,” Bradshaw added.

Time spent as a nurse before entering the master’s program means most NPs already have an understanding of disease processes and an easy rapport with patients because they’ve been hands-on with patients their entire career. “As a family practice NP, I tend to look at the body as a whole, not just one complaint or one symptom. We have a broad base of knowledge, but it’s our job to look at the whole picture. I know a lot of people tend to look at family practice as simply a referral system, but in reality, each patient is a puzzle and it’s our job to take care of all the pieces. We consolidate the pieces and complete the puzzle so the whole person is being taken care of, not just one specific symptom,” Bradshaw explained.

In the last decade, there has been an increase in the number of NPs in the workforce, and it looks like that trend will continue, as nursing careers are projected to grow 40 percent by 2031. With the Boomer generation reaching an age where more medical care and providers are needed, more nursing programs were created to meet the need. Traditionally, NPs cost health care organizations less to employ, so those cost savings benefit patients, as well. “Being a family practice NP also offers a great work/life balance; it’s very flexible for home life. There are opportunities to specialize if I want, so I feel like being a nurse practitioner gives me so many options,” Bradshaw said.

If you are looking for a provider, contact East Tennessee Medical Group at 865-984-3864.

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