IN THE UNITED STATES, APRNs fall into four main categories: nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, or nurse midwives. Within those categories, particularly the nurse practitioner category, APRNs may specialize. For example, a nurse practitioner (NP) might work with children, so she’s a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP). CNMs, obviously, specialize in midwifery, so they focus on childbearing women and neonates.
APRNs are registered nurses who go on for at least a masters-degree level of university education and often have years of hands-on experience working with patients. Many go on for doctorate degrees, and many teach in nursing schools.
In general, APRNs can do much of what a doctor of medicine does. In Indiana, they can declare medical diagnoses, offer simple treatment — even minor surgeries — and can prescribe medications. They answer to a nursing licensing board and rely on a collaborative physician to review charts on a regular basis.
Most importantly, they’re experts in their fields. That means they know what they know — and they know what they don’t know. APRNs are quick to refer people OUT of their care when conditions or needed treatments warrant such. They enjoy collaborating with competent medical doctors whose expertise or scope of practice exceeds their own in any given specialty.
You probably caught on I’ve tiptoed around the multi-faceted elephant in the room: Nurses, really? Aren’t doctors better? Don’t we all need a family physician at least? And all children a pediatrician? Are APRNs competing with doctors for patients? And more, right?
Lots of questions to consider, for sure. For myself, I take them one at a time and answer them with science and logic.
Next week I’ll answer a few of those questions — tell you what the trends seem to be — and tell you about one FNP who enjoys a thriving family practice in Elkhart. In the mean time, you can read up on APRNs at the American Nurses Association’s web site content about them: http://www.nursingworld.org/EspeciallyForYou/AdvancedPracticeNurses.
Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her a¬¬t firstname.lastname@example.org, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”