After practising as a full time Nurse Practitioner (NP) for 14 years, I realized something that came as a shock to me. Only a small percentage of the population really even had a true understanding about what a Nurse Practitioner does or even brings to the health care system. I would dare to estimate that only about 4-5% of the population really knows.
In practise, I often get asked by patients or other health care providers if I am studying to become a doctor, or if I am a doctor in training. I spend much time explaining that the NP role is different and unique and although the role has overlap with nurses and doctors that we are our own very special unique kind of health care provider.
I explain it in such terms as... "We are a medical provider who was a nurse first and whose approach to the patient is different" ... or maybe "We provide medical care with similar scope to a family doctor but with the thinking of a nurse". Sometimes it is hard to know exactly how to explain it. Most times, patients simply give up trying to piece it together and simply call me "doctor Diane".
When you approach medical care with a holistic way of thinking, you end up with a different result on the other end. When the patient is evaluated from a broad holistic standpoint in the context of a health issue, the depth of understanding of this patient and the reason why this health issue is occurring begins to emerge. When you simply approach a patient with only a diagnosis, the depth of understanding of this condition or the reason it may have occurred will be forgotten. Understanding 'why' leads not only to a further depth to the analysis of the situation, it catalyzes a holistic approach and leads to a preventative approach to the situation overall. Patients and providers having a solid grasp of what holistic medical care really is will lead to a much better understanding of the NP role and how the NP is the most desirable provider to be leading the primary care role in our system.
Please take the time to contribute to this discussion about how Nurse Practitioners truly are unique. Lets explore ideas, misunderstandings and an overall picture with case examples where holistic medicine principles have been applied. Please contribute to the conversation in the comments below.
Some questions to ask yourself and comment about below:
1. How do you see Nurse Practitioners as unique medical providers?
2. What are some examples of how holistic medicine has made a tremendous difference in a patient's life and care?
3. What makes a Nurse Practitioner different from a nurse?
4. What makes a Nurse Practitioner different from a doctor?
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Diane Gudmundson has been an NP for over 14 years. She has a passion for the value and uniqueness of the NP role in our health care system.