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The value of nurse practitioners

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September 24th, 2013
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The next time you call your doctor for an appointment, don’t be surprised if you’re offered a visit with a nurse practitioner. As the number of Americans over age 65 doubles from 2,000 to 2,030, and the current physician shortage intensifies, medical practices are employing nurse practitioners (NPs) to help fill the gaps and ensure adequate access to care. While you may not be accustomed to receiving care from an NP, I encourage you to give it a try.

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have received post-graduate education, training, and national certification in a specialty area such as gerontology, adult health, or mental health. They can be primary providers who assess and diagnose patients; order diagnostic and laboratory tests; write prescriptions; initiate, implement, and follow up with treatment plans; and much more. At Erickson Living, we’ve always valued and employed nurse practitioners (NPs) as partners in providing care to seniors.

Integral partners in care

The added value NPs provide was recently highlighted in a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Dr. David Reuben and researchers at the UCLA Geriatric Research Center compared physician-nurse practitioner comanagement to physician alone management of four common conditions: falls, incontinence, dementia, and depression. Charts were randomly selected for evaluation from a medical practice that employed physicians and NPs. For each quality of care concern, researchers evaluated if patients were identified, followed up, received education about their condition, and whether or not they were connected to community resources that could help them. They found that overall a better quality of care was associated with the comanagement, physician-NP model of care. This was particularly true for the evaluation and management of falls and incontinence.

These results make perfect sense; a collaborative approach to health care does work and is often best. Having a team of providers available to you rather than just one not only creates better access to care, it can also be an opportunity to hear new perspectives and options.

Nurse practitioners create these kinds of opportunities, so please don’t hesitate when offered to see one. We have found NPs to be a vital and valuable complement to our physicians and essential to our collaborative model of care.

In good health,

Dr. Narrett

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