3 Ways Nurse Practitioners Make a Difference in Health Care

Nurse practitioners are a power house in the health care system.  We are steadily gaining more legal rights and are diagnosing and treating a growing number of patients each year.  With the recent buzz about health care reform, nurse practitioners are being called to step in and care for millions more newly insured patients.  Our profession is receiving increasing recognition as is evidenced by the naming of this week as National Nurse Practitioner Week.  In what ways do nurse practitioners positively impact health care?

1. Providing Quality, Personalized Patient Care

As nurse practitioners, we are uniquely trained to provide high quality care for our patients.  We not only address our patient's current, acute problems but promote health in all areas of life.  We take the time to counsel our patients on issue like smoking cessation, diet and exercise.  Research shows that health counseling for issues like STD prevention, tobacco use, diet counseling and injury prevention are more likely to be provided in visits involving a NP than those not involving NP care.  Nurse practitioners also score higher than non-NP providers in areas such as therapeutic listening, discussion of health and wellness and support offered to patients.  

2. Lowering Costs of Health Care

Not only are nurse practitioners providing quality of care, we are doing is in a less expensive manner.  One study in Tennessee showed that NP's delivered patient care at 23% below the cost of other providers practicing in the same area.  Nurse practitioners also save the health care system money by keeping patients out of the hospital.  In a study comparing a physician-managed practice and a NP-managed practice, patients in the NP-managed practice had 43% fewer ER visits, 38% fewer inpatient days and an annualized patient cost 50% lower than that of the physician practice.  

3. Improving Access to Care

Sixty-five million Americans currently live in areas designated by the federal government as having a shortage of primary care providers.  Who are they calling on to step in and care for these patients?  NP's of course!  Nurse practitioners are more likely than other providers to work in less densely populated, rural and low income areas than other providers.  In some areas, nurse practitioners make up more than half of the primary care workforce.  Without NP's many patients living in underserved areas would not receive primary care services. 

Together, nurse practitioners are providing phenomenal patient care in a cost-effective manner.  We are helping patients that may go untreated without our services.  Let's keep up the good work and step in to help the millions more Americans who will become insured in the next few years.  

Enjoy National Nurse Practitioner Week!  In what ways are you and your fellow NP's making a difference in health care in your area?