While nurse practitioners and doctors are both health care providers, they differ in a few ways. The most obvious is their chosen educational path. A doctor attends medical school, while a nurse practitioner earns a master’s degree or doctor of nursing practice and takes a national certification examination. Although their educational paths differ as health care providers, they share a focus on the patient. Because doctors and nurse practitioners are both highly trained professionals, nurse practitioners are a valuable asset to any doctor.
Shortened Wait Times
According to the Massachusetts Medical Review, in some states, people wait up to four months for an appointment to see a doctor. By having a nurse practitioner on staff, a doctor’s office, urgent care facility, or hospital can reduce patient wait times. Even if the state limits some of the nurse practitioner functions, he or she can still give valuable diagnoses and treatment options for patients so the doctor can see other patients, which serves to decrease the wait time.
There’s an In-Office Second Opinion
Nurse practitioners can give a second opinion on a case, as well as help collaborate on the care for a patient. If the case is complex or deals with a certain specialty, the nurse practitioner can consult with a specialist just as a doctor would. For example, if a patient suffered a stroke, the NP could diagnose the patient and contact a neurologist. Similarly, the NP could consult with a cardiologist for heart issues just as a general physician would.
Doctors should support their patients’ seeking second opinions and send them to the right person to speak with. The Patient Advocate Foundation claims that studies have shown roughly 30 percent of patients who seek second opinions, receive another that doesn’t agree with the original diagnosis. The job of a nurse practitioner is to provide as much information about treatment as possible, even if that is contradictory to what the doctor diagnosed. NP’s can be a valuable resource for patients unsure of whether they agree with the treatment plan the doctor recommended and can assist patients best by offering a sound second opinion on diagnosis or treatment options.
Better Patient Profiles
A nurse practitioner may have different goals for the patient than the physician. In addition to the nursing process and diagnosis and treatment, NPs explore social issues and statistically spend more time with patients, which especially helps in the care of patients with chronic or life-limiting illnesses.
Palliative and hospice care is a relatively new specialty area that was started by nurses and is now being embraced by the larger medical community. Having different health care professionals with different training can bring new perspectives to a case and help to diagnose and treat patients more efficiently.
NPs Handle Most Doctor Responsibilities
In many emergency rooms and office settings, doctors are overburdened with large patient loads. Depending on the state, a nurse practitioner can do much of what the doctor does, with the exception of major surgical procedures. With special training, NPs can suture, insert and discontinue chest tubes, and check central lines. Nurse practitioners can also prescribe medicine in most states, although they may need to collaborate with doctors for treatments involving strong pain medications.
Reports show that patients still receive quality care when treated by a nurse practitioner versus a doctor. Because of their training and their capabilities, nurse practitioners can help to lighten doctors’ loads, allowing them to take on more or different patients, effectively reducing wait times. In turn, this can help doctors diagnose and treat patients more quickly and make the day-to-day job less stressful.