Role of Nurse Practitioners in Health Care


A study released this week discovered that the country needs to hire at least two-million health care workers by 2025 to take care of aging baby boomers.  Learn how Nurse Practitioners are helping to fill that gap with UT Health Austin’s Women’s Health Institute’s Amy Papermaster, NP-C.

National Nurse’s Week is May 6-12 and its time to appreciate some of the most utilized health professionals. If you are thinking of following down this career path, it may be one job to consider.  Amy Papermaster, MSN, NP-C at UT Health Austin’s Women’s Health Institute, spoke with KXAN about the role of nurse practitioners in healthcare.

A shortage of healthcare providers.

There has been a pretty phenomenal surge in the shortage in healthcare, and nurse practitioners are going to be a great way to fill this gap. Many nurse practitioners are already starting to do that, you can see the trend over the last decade.  Nurse practitioners are starting to take on more of the role of provider, creating quality and affordable care for patients.

What is a nurse practitioner?

Even though people may hear “nurse” first, a nurse practitioner is an advanced level degree nurse.  Usually the entry level being a masters degree and in some cases even a doctorate degree. Nurse practitioners are able to see patients with acute conditions, chronic conditions, and concerns from chronic colds to patients with diabetes and kidney disease.  They are able to diagnose conditions and prescribe medications, order imaging tests and procedures. 

As a provider, nurse practitioners bring a unique philosophical approach because they are first and foremost nurses. Nurse practitioners approach patient care holistically; taking in the physical, social and psychological aspects into the patient care team. Nurses and nurse practitioners act as the patient’s voice and advocate. So when you see a nurse practitioner, they want to see how you are doing as a whole person, not just that your wrist is hurting, or that you have a gynecological issue.

Nurse practitioners as providers in rural areas.

Since it is difficult for many physicians to travel or relocate to rural areas, nurse practitioner may be seen as invaluable to those residents. It is nurse practitioners who are moving into those areas and addressing the care for individuals. And research is showing that these patients are receiving great care. 

What does it take to become a nurse practitioner?

In order to become a nurse practitioner, an individual must become a nurse first, often a registered nurse or RN. Earn a bachelor’s degree and in many cases you must practice 2-3 years in critical care, gaining experience as a nurse, before being admitted into a master’s program.  The nurse practitioner program is typically a master’s program, although there is a shift towards a doctorate program now. According to Amy, there is some overlap in nurse practitioner and physician didactic courses and also in being in the clinical setting to get the exposure. 

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