What is a Nurse Practitioner?

What is a Nurse Practitioner

Choosing a career in healthcare is a practical decision. It’s a service that will always be in demand, and it makes people’s lives better. But, since there are so many different titles within the nursing field, it can get pretty confusing trying to figure out what they all do. Granted, certain careers in nursing are highly skilled enough to provide patients with the same peace of mind that comes from consulting and receiving treatment from a doctor. Such is the case with nurse practitioners.

Overview of Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners (NP) are licensed healthcare professionals who focus on preventing diseases and managing existing conditions. In order to become an NP, a person needs to complete, at a minimum, a registered nurse (RN) program, and a Master’s Degree in nursing practice — although it’s becoming increasingly common to also obtain a doctorate in the field (DNP). Once they complete their studies, nurse practitioners are required to pass the APRN certification exam. Once they complete all these requirements, nurse practitioners work on their own, without needing to do their jobs under the supervision of a physician.

Nurse practitioners provide a lot of the same services you can obtain at any medical office or hospital. The most common ones include:

  • Preventive care
  • Routine checkups
  • Lab work
  • X-rays
  • Diagnosing illness
  • Creating treatment plans
  • Prescribing medications
  • Managing health conditions
  • Monitoring patients’ health

NPs can also choose to receive additional training to specialize in different areas of medicine. The most common include pediatrics, dermatology, gastroenterology, obstetrics, orthopedics, sports medicine, and geriatrics, among others.

Can you see a nurse practitioner instead of a doctor?

Due to their high level of training and skill sets, nurse practitioners can provide a wide array of primary care services that are typically offered by doctors. Therefore, yes, you can see an NP in lieu of a physician in many circumstances. An added benefit is that you’ll likely be able to schedule an appointment sooner. There are, however, certain caveats. You should see a doctor if your health condition falls into any of the following categories:

  • Rare illnesses
  • Persistent illnesses
  • Requires surgery

While nurse practitioners can also treat rare and persistent illnesses, physicians are required to undergo about 20,000 hours of clinical experience during their training. While NPs are also required to clock in a significant number of hours, it’s not as many as a medical doctor. However, this becomes less of an issue the more experience a nurse practitioner attains throughout their career.

In addition, due to a nurse practitioner’s ability to perform most of the same duties a physician can, they alleviate the load in emergency rooms — which can be invaluable in instances such as the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, some people have complex medical conditions that require an entire team of healthcare professionals. In such situations, a nurse practitioner can be part of such a network of healthcare providers.

Can nurse practitioners perform pap smears?

Pap smears are part of preventive healthcare screenings (specifically, to detect the presence of pre-cancerous or cancerous cells in the cervix). As such, it can be performed either by a gynecologist, physician’s assistant (PA), or nurse practitioner. In addition, nurse practitioners can also provide services that go hand-in-hand with pap smears — such as counseling on reproductive health, fertility tests, family planning, and/or managing sexually transmitted diseases.

If You Have a Healthcare Concern, Nurse Practitioners of Florida Can Help

At Nurse Practitioners of Florida, we have a dedicated team of certified nurse practitioners who have an unwavering commitment to providing you with care and compassion. When you call any of our locations, you will be greeted by a live person who’s ready to offer acute medical care as well as preventive measures — including pap smears. And above everything else, you will be treated like family.

If you need assistance, call us or fill out our online contact form.