There are more than 200,000 practicing nurse practitioners (NPs) in the United States today; yet, misconceptions still persist about these hard-working health practitioners, both among the general public and within the healthcare industry itself.
In honor of National Nurse Practitioner Week 2015, we want to debunk some of the more prevalent NP myths, and present some important facts about nurse practitioners. For the general public (and possibly some other clinicians), the info below can help serve as a great introduction to the hard work performed by the nation’s NPs every day.
If you’re an NP, consider this a confirmation of all the hard work you do. And don't forget to check out our exclusive Staff Care NP Week infographic. Happy NP Week 2015!
Myth 1: Nurse Practitioners Can’t Prescribe Medication
Many people think that they need to see a physician to get a prescription for medication. Not true! According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), Nurse Practitioners hold prescriptive privilege in all 50 states and D.C., with controlled substances in 49.
- Fact: 97.2% of NPs can and do prescribe medications. Nurse practitioners in full-time practice write an average of 21 prescriptions per day. Additionally, most states require nurse practitioners to have a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) number to prescribe scheduled medications for pain, physical suffering and anxiety.
Myth 2: NPs Practice only Under a Physician’s License
Nurse practitioners actually hold their own licenses at the state level and are certified at the national level. In the U.S., 21 states and the District of Columbia have approved “full practice” status for NPs, allowing them to assess, diagnose, interpret diagnostic tests, and prescribe medications independently from physicians.
- Fact: Although different states have a supervisory model between NPs and physicians, NPs have their own licenses and are responsible for the care they provide to patients. Contrary to popular belief, nurse practitioners hold a lot more responsibility in healthcare facilities than they get credit for, although they do continue to fight for more independence.
Myth 3: Nurses Must Practice an Extensive Number of Years Before Becoming an NP
NPs are, properly identified, actually Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). However, this doesn’t mean that extensive practice as a registered nurse (RN) is required to become a nurse practitioner. After earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing, nurses must then acquire a master’s degree in an NP specialty, which can take one to three years, depending on the specialty.
- Fact: Although nurses are encouraged to spend a year or two practicing as an RN prior to beginning their master’s degree, this is not a requirement. Experience is always a good idea, though; and the hands-on training received while obtaining both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees will significantly improve an NP's career opportunities.
Myth 4: Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Have the Same Responsibilities
Nurse practitioners and physician assistants (PAs) have similar job descriptions, which can make it confusing to differentiate between the two professions. Heightening the confusion is the fact that NPs and Pas are often lumped together professionally as “advanced practitioners,” and that both specialties are being increasing recruited to complete tasks traditionally carried out by physicians.
- Fact: NPs and PAs are different and separate professions. For one, NPs begin their careers as registered nurses, and become advanced practice nurses after additional higher education. On the other hand, PAs attend a medical school or center of medicine, and require no formal training as a nurse.
Additionally, NPs follow a patient-centered model, in which they focus on disease prevention and health education, and PAs follow a disease-centered model, in which they focus on the biologic and pathologic components of health. Physician assistants also have more freedom in healthcare facilities, with no restrictions on prescribing medicine, and they can practice without the presence of a physician.
The Facts about Nurse Practitioners
Whether or not you work with NPs (or happen to be one), it’s always helpful to better understand the major role these professionals play in the healthcare industry. And experts agree that this role will only increase in the years to come, thanks to the nation’s ongoing physician shortage, the addition of millions of new insured citizens to the healthcare system, and a variety of other factors.
National Nurse Practitioner Week gives you the opportunity to show your support and thanks for these hardworking individuals. If you know any nurse practitioners who you’d like to thank this week, be sure to tag them on social media and use the Staff Care NP Week hashtag #NPImpacts. To all of our NPs, thank you for everything that you do!
If you’re a nurse practitioner interested in locum tenens opportunities, we invite you to search available NP job opportunities here. We have assignments all over the country!
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