As a nursing professional, you likely know the strain on staff that happens when there are not enough nurses to handle the number of patients. This happens in hospitals, medical clinics and other medical facilities. Nursing professionals make up the largest segment of healthcare professionals and they are essential to effective patient care.
An unfortunate result of the nursing shortage can be that access to care is limited, causing patients to suffer for longer periods before they get medical care. The effects that family nurse practitioners can have on access to healthcare can be wide-ranging and beneficial.
Why earn a master’s degree as a family nurse practitioner?
Earning a degree as a family nurse practitioner is an excellent way to further your career in healthcare. When you enter a program that is uniquely designed for nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree, you can continue to work while you complete your schooling.
Texas Woman’s University MSN family nurse practitioner online course gives you a transformative experience that broadens your clinical skills. With an emphasis on problem-solving, evidence-based care and advanced nursing practices, you can be prepared to step into a family nurse practitioner role in a variety of settings.
The effects of family nurse practitioners on access to healthcare
The current shortage of healthcare for entire groups can be improved in dramatic ways with the addition of family nurse practitioners. Particular needs exist in the mental health and primary care areas of medicine.
Family nurse practitioners can fill the gap of fewer primary care doctors, especially in rural and underserved areas.
More and more primary care medical practices are choosing to add family nurse practitioners to their staff for a variety of reasons. A main benefit of having family nurse practitioners is that they are capable of assessing, diagnosing and treating most of the same medical conditions as family practice doctors.
Nurse practitioners are trained to do everything that doctors can do, including minor surgeries. They have hospital privileges and admit patients who need specialized medical care beyond their scope of practice.
Family nurse practitioners have the opportunity to specialize in certain medical areas such as obstetrics and gynecology, gerontology and pediatrics.
As primary care providers, they can often see patients much more quickly than physicians who have a full patient roster. Many patients prefer to see a nurse practitioner because they focus more on holistic health and the patient relationship.
Primary care in rural communities
Many rural communities lack adequate primary care and have to travel long distances to see a doctor. The growing number of family nurse practitioners helps to fill the gap in these communities that need a local medical provider for routine, chronic disease and acute care.
Family nurse practitioners can open their own offices in underserved areas to meet the expansive needs of entire families. They have hospital privileges that allow them to treat patients in a different setting from just the medical office. This attention to continuous care builds confidence for their patients that their nurse practitioner has their best interests at heart and can provide high-quality care.
Mental health care
Mental health problems are growing in rural areas and big cities, but many communities do not have proper medical personnel to deal with the issues facing people. Once more, the gap between the needs of the community and medical providers can be bridged with qualified family nurse practitioners.
While the scope of mental health care varies from state to state, family nurse practitioners can earn certification for treating mental health patients with evidence-based care plans. They can carry out mental health assessments, diagnose psychiatric illnesses, and collaborate with other medical professionals to develop appropriate care.
Many nurse practitioners act as the liaison between the patient and concerned family members, explaining the issues and the treatment recommendations. They can also lead psychotherapy sessions to help struggling patients.
An advantage that the family nurse practitioner has in the mental health arena is the expanded focus on the whole individual – mental and physical health combined. This is a crucial distinction because many mental health patients have comorbidities such as diabetes, heart disease, depression and obesity that affect their care. A nurse practitioner has the training to address all the complex issues facing these patients.
Rural and underserved populations often lack maternity healthcare while they are pregnant and post-birth care for mothers and babies. Family nurse practitioners are unique maternity healthcare providers as they can treat the mother and baby simultaneously.
Their role helps reduce maternity care disparities in rural and local communities without access to regular pregnancy care. Many studies show that there are higher rates of smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyles and hypertension in rural populations, leading to birth complications.
Family nurse practitioners can treat all these conditions along with the pregnancy to boost the chances of a healthy delivery and thriving baby. In addition, many rural women do not have access to follow-up care after birth, which the nurse practitioner can provide.
Other concerns for these women can focus on sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer and breast cancer. Family nurse practitioners can teach about contraception and how to be safe during sex. This instruction is essential in reducing pregnancy complications, infant mortality and maternal mortality rates.
The presence of family nurse practitioners in many communities reduces the disparities in healthcare options and improves access to care dramatically.
Family nurse practitioners are a crucial part of preventive healthcare promotion. Some studies estimate that as many as five out of 10 deaths in the US are due to chronic diseases that could be better controlled with preventive measures.
In fact, many chronic diseases such as diabetes are entirely preventable with the right health choices. Nurse practitioners are on the front lines of helping to identify risk factors and aiding people who are in danger of chronically poor health.
As more and more family nurse practitioners enter the medical field, they can bridge the gap that is often left when there are not enough primary care physicians to handle the load. With the training to practice autonomously, nurse practitioners can utilize their roles to educate many underserved populations on how to prevent or minimize these risk factors.
Benefits of preventive healthcare
Prevention is a key way to slow or stop the progression of chronic diseases. Patient education can help entire communities avoid diseases that diminish their quality of life.
Preventive healthcare encompasses preventive screenings such as mammograms for breast cancer and routine cholesterol testing. When children are healthy, they can attend school regularly, which gives them a better chance at life opportunities.
Healthy adults can work and provide for their families and spend time with their children. The benefits of preventive healthcare cannot be underestimated.
Disease prevention and healthcare promotion are proven methods to encourage people to adopt healthy habits. Through education and practical ways to improve many aspects of health, family nurse practitioners are able to impact individuals, families and communities.
Health promotion focuses on helping patients make better food choices. When patients come for a routine check-up or sick visit, nurse practitioners have the opportunity to discuss how to replace drive-through food with healthier options. Working with other medical professionals such as nutritionists, nurse practitioners can provide a way to change an unhealthy lifestyle into a healthier one.
Family nurse practitioners can discuss the importance of adequate sleep and daily exercise as ways to improve overall health. Many rural and underserved communities do not have an understanding of how impactful healthier habits can be, and nurse practitioners are in a unique position to teach better health habits.
Family nurse practitioners can organize community wellness events where people can come for screenings. This can be crucial for populations that have language barriers or insufficient income for insurance.
These screenings can also be a perfect time to teach wellness habits and help community members access other medical help they need. Many studies show that educating people on disease risks and factors can motivate them to make better health choices.
Small habits such as washing hands, proper vaccines and routine screenings can make a huge difference in good health. Many people have not had positive health examples, and nurse practitioners can use their relationships with patients to help them change for the better. This can improve the health of individuals, families and extended families.
Chronic disease management
When people understand the risk factors for chronic illnesses, they have an improved chance to take control of their health in multiple ways.
Nurse practitioners are critical partners with their patients in chronic disease prevention and management. Coordinating healthcare with other medical professionals is an important part of managing chronic diseases, and this is where family nurse practitioners can fill the gap.
Their oversight can ensure that patients take the necessary medications and attend medical appointments to manage chronic illnesses. Nurse practitioners are also tasked with assessing the mental health of these patients and their families. Chronic diseases can take a large toll on everyone associated with the patient, so it is imperative that this is part of the oversight and treatment plan.
As many family nurse practitioners are primary care medical professionals, they can spot disease factors before they become a health issue. As more nurse practitioners become care providers, more people have access to quality healthcare options and education.
Statistics show that when nurse practitioners advocate for healthier lifestyle management and deliver consistent preventive care, these interventions have a positive impact on the overall health of their patients.
Predominant chronic diseases
Chronic diseases can take a big toll on the mental and physical health of patients and their caregivers. These illnesses are ongoing, last a long time and have no known cure. They are expensive to treat and affect patients financially as well as physically.
Heart disease, arthritis, cancer and diabetes are the predominant chronic diseases that affect the US population. Conservative reports show that over 60% of the people in the country have a chronic disease that could have been prevented or minimized with the right habits.
Family nurse practitioners can have a direct impact on reducing chronic illnesses and diseases when caught early through primary care.
Chronic disease management and telehealth
An innovative solution to appointment visits for those who have chronic diseases is telehealth. Family nurse practitioners can now visit with their patients virtually when the patient cannot physically attend an appointment due to their chronic health condition.
The relationship that a nurse practitioner forms with patients also helps the patient open up about struggles, providing the practitioner with an opportunity to access additional medical help from specialists.
Combined with the training for holistic patient care, a nurse practitioner can keep tabs on patients with short telehealth visits.
There is a clear correlation between quality telehealth and chronic disease management. Family nurse practitioners can virtually monitor the health conditions of their patients to make timely adjustments that would have taken much more time by waiting until an in-person visit.
Another advantage of telehealth in chronic disease management is the opportunity for patients to ask questions to their nurse provider. By doing this, they have a better understanding, allowing them to initiate changes quicker.
The US population is aging, with baby boomers comprising most of the increase in chronic conditions. Family nurse practitioners are a critical part of meeting the needs of older people with complex, chronic conditions.
Not only has the increase in chronic diseases prompted a shift in the most sought-after medical professions, but it has also motivated legislators to recognize the need for more family nurse practitioners by authorizing them to practice independently of physicians. This is good news for patients who have trouble finding quality healthcare and for those who must travel long distances for medical attention.