By: Stephanie Speetzen FNP-BC,C
With the opening of our Wellington clinic in August, we have been doing our share of awareness-raising. We want the community to know that we are here for you. We are bringing a plethora of services that Wellington has not had access to. Each of our providers has not only been licensed within her field of study, but we are all eager learners which mean we have a ton of specialty certifications.
That being said, I was asked for the first time in my career, why a physician who could practice medicine was not part of the clinic. It shocked me. Mainly because I did not understand why it was being asked. After the woman left our vendor booth, I turned to Ellison, our physical therapist, and told her that I had never been asked that before. Ellison very quickly pointed out that the woman did not seem to understand what a nurse practitioner was, nor their scope of practice.
So, what is a nurse practitioner exactly? I received a four-year degree in nursing at a private college in Minnesota. From there I successfully sat for the boards to obtain a registered nursing license. After several years of work experience, I applied to a graduate program and was accepted to the University of North Dakota where I received a master’s degree in the family nurse practitioner track. I again successfully sat for boards. Two entities certify advanced practice nurses. I passed both.
But none of that really explains what I do every day at work. For ease of understanding, let’s begin with a role we all know, a family doctor. This is the person you saw for annual checkups, shots, wart removal, birth control, high blood pressure, and so much more. They are your general practitioner. The person that takes care of you for your day-to-day needs.
As a nurse practitioner, I can do all these things. As a family nurse practitioner, I can do them for the entire lifespan of a person. Research shows nurse practitioners get similar results from their patient care as medical doctors, except for two areas. In those two outcome areas, nurse practitioners consistently outperformed MDs by educating their patients more in smoking cessation, exercise, and healthy eating habits (Kurtzman & Barnow, 2017, p.615). Nurse practitioners bring the bedside manner and communication skills developed in nursing careers into the examination room.
As a nurse practitioner, I am extremely proud of the reputation our practice has developed. We are the nurses that sat at your bedside when illness brought you to the hospital. The nurses that sat with you as you dealt with nausea from anesthesia after a procedure. The nurses that spent time on the phone explaining the medication instructions you missed while your two-year-old screamed through your appointment, but now we are more.
We can take those years of practice, the ones where we could administer a drug, but not prescribe it, to good use. Those years where we educated and taught our patients about their diets and bodies; how to care for themselves in a way the meant living well and not leaving it completely up to medication. Now that we forge a bond between the general practitioner and nurse, we have a new type of care. Care that is centered around the patient’s life and focuses on behavioral changes and uses medication as a tool only when needed but never instead of.
Kurtzman ET, Barnow BS. A Comparison of Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, and Primary Care Physicians’ Patterns of Practice and Quality of Care in Health Centers. Med Care. 2017 Jun;55(6):615-622. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000689. PMID: 28234756.