What is a Nurse Practitioner?

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A Nurse Practitioner is a registered nurse (RN) who has additional education and training in a specialty area such as family practice or pediatrics. Pediatric and family practice NPs can provide regular health care for kids.

Nurse Practitioners (also referred to as advanced practice nurses, or APNs) have a master’s degree in nursing (MS or MSN) and board certification in their specialty. For example, a pediatric NP has advanced education, skills and training in caring for infants, children and teens.

Nurse Practitioners follow the rules and regulations of the Nurse Practice Act of the state where they work. Most Nurse Practitioners are also accredited with a national certification board.

A Nurse Practitioner who specializes in pediatrics can:

  • Document health history and perform a physical exam
  • Plan a child’s care with parents and the child’s health care team
  • Perform some tests and procedures
  • Answer questions about health problems
  • Treat common childhood illnesses
  • Assist with management of chronic illnesses
  • Change the plan of care with a child’s doctor as needed
  • Teach families about the effects of illness on a child’s growth and development
  • Teach kids about self-care and healthy lifestyle choices
  • Write prescriptions for most medications
  • Order medical tests
  • Teach other health care members and local groups about children’s health care
  • Provide referrals to other specialty providers or community resources

NPs and Doctors

Most NPs maintain close working relationships with doctors and consult them as needed. NPs are licensed in all 50 states and can dispense most medications.

Although doctors have additional training to help patients deal with complex medical problems, many people feel that NPs spend more time with their patients. Experts who study NPs report that their training emphasizes disease prevention, reduction of health risks, and thorough patient education.

Like doctors, NPs are involved in more than just direct patient care. Many participate in education, research and legislative activities to improve the quality of health care in the United States.

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