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Nurse practitioners increasing in valley

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Nurse practitioners increasing in valley

Oak Valley Hospital Nurse Practitioners are registered nurses who are prepared, through advanced education and clinical training, to provide a wide range of medical care.

Photo courtesy of Oak Valley Hospital/

POSTED July 31, 2013 8:10 p.m.

With access to primary medical care for all being the aim of health care reform, the role of nurse practitioners will become vital in meeting that target.

A nurse practitioner is defined as “a registered nurse who has acquired the knowledge base, decision-making skills and clinical competencies for expanded practice beyond that of an RN, the characteristics of which would be determined by the context in which s/he is credentialed to practice.”

Nurse practitioners treat both physical and mental conditions and can provide a diagnosis and recommendations for a wide range of acute and chronic diseases within their scope of practice. In California, they can order diagnostic tests and provide appropriate treatment for patients, including prescribing medications.

Similar to all medical professions, the core philosophy of the field is individualized care that focuses on patients’ conditions as well as the effects of illness on the lives of the patients and their families.

“We do a lot of educational counseling in our practice,” said Leslie Simon, a nurse practitioner for Oak Valley Hospital District. “Not only do we do preventative healthcare, but also we treat injuries, diagnose and treat illness, and can prescribe medications.”

Simon was a registered nurse for 10 years and has been practicing as a nurse practitioner for the last 13.

Education to become a nurse practitioner is rigorous and requires advanced coursework and clinical rotations beyond that required of the RN. Registered nurses initially trained at the associate degree or diploma level must first complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Nurse practitioner programs offered by universities and colleges are generally at the master’s degree level.

Nurse practitioners must be certified in an area of practice such as family medicine, women’s health, pediatrics, adult medicine, acute care, etc. and are licensed through the state nursing board.

“Nurse practitioners have their own license,” said Simon. “In California, nurse practitioners are required to collaborate with a physician. They (doctors) are there for our assistance. Nurse practitioners can actually have their own practice.”

As doctors spend significant time and resources treating individuals with chronic conditions, the average family physician can become severely overtaxed. Nurse practitioners assist in such a way being the first contact for a person with an undiagnosed health concern as well as continuing care for varied medical conditions to allow those doctors to spend their time on the seriously ill.

Doctors are predicted to become even scarcer when the Affordable Care Act broadens health care benefits. This predicament will likely open a greater role to primary care professionals such as nurse practitioners at a time when physicians are in short supply.

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