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Nurse practitioners' service is invaluable


Date published: 5/2/2014

Nurse practitioners' service is invaluable

I am writing about Donnie Johnston's April 22 column ["In past, patients needed patience"].

This is the second column written by Mr. Johnston that has provided inaccurate information about nurse practitioners to your readers.

Since the early 1970s, nurse practitioners have been members of the health care team that diagnoses and treats acute, minor and chronic illnesses in outpatient and hospital settings.

In Virginia (as in most other states), nurse practitioners also have prescriptive authority and are licensed to prescribe medications. Each N.P. has a written collaborative agreement with a physician.

The N.P. role was developed in the U.S. more than 40 years ago in response to a severe shortage of primary care providers, especially in rural and underserved areas.

The National Institute of Medicine recently recommended an increase in the number of nurse practitioners in the U.S. and that they be educated at the doctoral level in order to meet the increasingly complex health care needs of Americans in the coming years.

Nurse practitioners are well-educated and well-prepared for their role on the health care team. They have a minimum of six to eight years of higher education that includes a bachelor's degree plus a master's and/or a doctoral degree. Most have had years of clinical experience as a registered nurse before becoming a nurse practitioner.

In Virginia, nurse practitioners are required to have national board certification and state licensure.

I would be very happy to discuss the nurse practitioner role further with Mr. Johnston so that he can become more informed about nurse practitioners and their role in health care.

Mary R. Nichols

Spotsylvania

The writer is a professor of nursing at Frontier Nursing University.