|What is a Nurse Practitioner?|
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse Practitioners are experienced registered nurses with advanced education* who are licensed to practice in Alberta and are regulated by a professional college. This ensures that they are completely qualified to provide health care services to Albertans. They are legislated health care providers under the Health Professions Act; the same legislation that allows doctors and nurses to practice in Canada.
Nurse Practitioners provide high-quality healthcare services that blend nursing knowledge with the ability to diagnose health conditions and treat them. They can also order tests and prescribe medications. No other health care provider provides this particular combination of services: care and cure.
Besides clinical care, Nurse Practitioners focus on health promotion, disease prevention, health education and counseling. They help patients make wise health and lifestyle choices. Nurse Practitioners also work with families and whole communities.
Nurse Practitioners take care of the whole person, not just the disease or health concern. They work in partnership with the patient to discover the best approach for each individual, or family or community. Their care is patient-centered and holistic.
*Most Nurse Practitioners in Alberta have a Masters degree, some hold a doctorate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why would I want to see a Nurse Practitioner for my health care?
Here are just a few reasons:
1) Nurse Practitioners have been shown to provide safe, comprehensive, and cost-effective health care services equal to family physicians.1
2) Nurse Practitioners include more patient teaching and give more information to patients about their health conditions and the treatments they recommend.2
3) Nurse Practitioners listen to patients and strive to understand how their health problems are affecting them.3
4) Patients of Nurse Practitioners report very high satisfaction with the care they receive.4
5) Nurse Practitioners can improve access to health care.5 At the present time, there are hundreds of thousands of Albertans without a health care provider.
6) In hospitals, Nurse Practitioners work with specialists and provide additional care to enhance recovery and a return to health. They ensure that all of the patient’s medical and nursing needs are being met while in hospital, and can ensure adequate care will be in place after discharge. They are also known for their ability to communicate, teach and counsel patients and families in these settings.6
7) People who see Nurse Practitioners for their health care often have fewer emergency room visits, shorter hospital stays and lower medication costs.7
Do I need a family doctor, too?
Not usually. Nurse Practitioners can take care of routine health check-ups, monitor growth and development of babies and children and teens, and can take care of most illnesses and conditions. If there are complex health problems or something beyond the knowledge, skills or abilities of a Nurse Practitioner, the Nurse Practitioner will refer you on to a family doctor or a specialist. Nurse Practitioners want each patient to get the best care possible, and sometimes that means the patient needs to be seen by a physician. And in other cases the Nurse Practitioner may continue to care for a patient but in partnership with a physician and/or other health care professionals.
What do Nurse Practitioners do?
Nurse Practitioners can perform annual physicals (check-ups), and take care of illnesses, screen for health problems, and manage chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. They can monitor the health of babies, children, adults, and the elderly, and treat their illnesses should they get sick. Some Nurse Practitioners s can provide emergency care, and others take care of patients in hospitals, nursing homes, or in specialty clinics.
Where do Nurse Practitioners work?
You will find Nurse Practitioners in hospitals, urgent care centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, maternity clinics, community clinics, and doctor’s offices. Nurse Practitioners in Ontario work in Nurse Practitioner clinics in the community with a team of other health care professionals. This is beginning to happen in Alberta, too.
Where can I find a Nurse Practitioner?
Currently, most Nurse Practitioners work in hospitals but more and more are beginning to appear in community and clinic settings. Stay tuned!
1. Brooten, D., Youngblut, J.M., Kutcher, J., Bobo, C. (2004). Quality and the nursing workforce: APNs, patient outcomes and health care costs. Nursing Outlook. 52:45-52.
Laurant, M., Reeves, D., Hermens, R., Braspenning, J., Grol, R., & Sibbald, B. (2006).Substitution of doctors by nurses in primary care. Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews. Retrieved from http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab001271.html
Mundinger, M.O., Kane, R.L., Lenz, E.R., Totten, A.M., Tsai, W.Y., Cleary, P.D., et al (2000). Primary care outcomes in patients treated by nurse practitioners or physicians: A randomized trial. JAMA, 283(1): 59-68.
Ramsay, J.A., McKenzie, J.K. & Fish, D.G. (1982). Physicians and nurse practitioners: Do they provide equivalent health care? American Journal of Public Health, 72(1), 55-57.
2. Prescott, P.A. & Driscoll, L. (1980). Evaluating nurse practitioner performance. Nurse Practitioner. 1(1): 28-32.
3. Mundinger, M.O., Kane, R.L., Lenz, E.R., Totten, A.M., Tsai, W.Y., Cleary, P.D., et al (2000). Primary care outcomes in patients treated by nurse practitioners or physicians: A randomized trial. JAMA, 283(1): 59-68.
4. Horrocks, S., Anderson, E., Salisbury, C. (2002). Systematic review of whether nurse practitioners working in primary care can provide equivalent care to doctors. British Medical Journal, 324: 819-823.
5. Canadian Nurses Association (2009).Nurse Practitioner: Position Statement. Retrieved from http://www.cna-aiic.ca/CNA/documents/pdf/publications/PS_Nurse_Practitioner_e.pdf
6. Kleinpell, R.M. (2005). Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Practice: Results of a 5-Year Longitudinal Study. American Journal of Critical Care. 14: 211-219.
VanOyen Force, M. (2009). Nurse Practitioners in acute care: Better outcomes, better care. Nurse Practitioners and PAs, 17(2): 37.
7. American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 2010. Nurse Practitioner Cost- Effectiveness. Retrieved from http://www.aanp.org/AANPCMS2/Publications/PositionStatementsPapers
*This is not an exhaustive list of references for these claims.