A nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced registered nurse (ARN) whose function is to promote and maintain health through diagnosis and treatment of diseases and other conditions that afflict people (Naylor & Kurtzman, 2010). A NP holds a graduate degree in advanced practice nursing and is conversant with numerous nursing concepts that enable him/her to work in a variety of settings. NPs are allowed to provide several health care services because of their broad range of knowledge and expertise. They manage both acute and chronic medical, physical, and mental conditions through examination and diagnosis of patients (Wortans et al., 2006). The most common work stations for NPs include hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and long term care institutions. Nursing practitioners are qualified to diagnose and treat chronic and acute illnesses. Therefore, they can work independently or under the supervision of a physician depending on the laws of the state in which they practice.
The national patient safety goals (NSPGs) refer to a set of milestones that are used to determine the changes needed in order to improve patient safety. The NP role is clinical because it involves promoting surgical safety, accurate patient identification, identifying patients who are at risk of suicide, improving communication among staff members, lowering instances of hospital-acquired infections, and reducing medication errors. They perform many clinical activities that improve patient safety.
Several research studies have been conducted to evaluate the role of NPs in the health care system. One of the roles is to reinvent primary care. According to Naylor and Kurtzman (2010), nurse practitioners play an important role in reinventing primary care and reducing the cost of health care. According to research conducted by the authors, NPs work in areas that include gerontology, nurse midwifery, pediatrics, and adult health, and provide care in different settings that include hospitals, schools, clinics, workplaces, and managed health centers (Naylor & Kurtzman, 2010). The study conducted by the authors revealed that NPs contribute significantly toward improving patient outcomes such as social functioning, emotional stability, mortality, physical wellbeing, and satisfaction (Naylor & Kurtzman, 2010). The results of the study revealed that the quality of care provided by NPs is equivalent to that provided by physicians. Nurses improve patient safety by providing high-value primary care through conducting timely and frequent patient follow-ups, in-depth screening and examination, proper assessment, and effective counseling and prescription (Naylor & Kurtzman, 2010). The researchers recommend the standardization of nurse practice acts in order to eradicate the various legal restrictions that limit the potential of NP workforce.
A research study conducted by Auerbach (2012) revealed that the satisfaction levels of patients treated by nurse practitioners are equal to those gained from physicians. High quality care is one of the factors contributing to the growing popularity of nurse practitioners. According to Auerbach (2012), the NP workforce is likely to expand in future because of the growing demand for health care services in various settings. The growing demand will necessitate an increase in the certification rate. Research conducted has revealed that both NPs and physicians offer health care of similar quality (Auerbach, 2012). However, there are fears that increasing the NP workforce will compromise patient safety. These fears are baseless because advanced registered nurses are highly qualified and undergo intensive training before certification. NPs order more clinical tests and conduct more follow-up sessions compared to physicians (Auerbach, 2012). In addition, they offer more detailed information to patients about their illnesses. Patients are more satisfied with the services because NPs provide better quality of care due to longer consultations and detailed information.
The role of nursing practitioners is growing and will encompass greater clinical practice opportunities in future. According to a medical expert, factors such as advanced training, new board certification procedures and growing demand for health care services in various settings will lead to an expansion of NPs’ scope of practice (Lyder, 2012). The expansion of nursing scope could compromise the quality and safety of care provided by NPs. However, the author argues that the expansion is inevitable due to the growing shortage of medical practitioners in the health care system. There are arguments that it is inappropriate for nurses to work autonomously without the supervision of physicians because of the possibility of compromising patient safety. The author notes that it is wrong to evaluate health care outcomes based on the practice of physicians because there is insufficient data to show their performance outcomes with regard to patient safety. The article argues that the expansion of the NPs’ scope of practice is inevitable because of increase in demand for health care and the shortage of physicians (Lyder, 2012).
In conclusion, nurse practitioners play an important role in maintaining and improving human health and wellbeing. They work under various settings and offer a wide range of services. Studies have shown that the quality of care that they offer is equivalent to that offered by physicians. According to NSPGs, the role of NPs in improvement of patient safety is clinical. For instance, they improve surgical procedures and reduce medication errors.
Auerbach, D. (2012). Will the NP Workforce Grow in the Future? New forecasts and Implications for Healthcare Delivery. Medical Care 50(7), 606-610.
Lyder, C. H. (2012). Nurse Practitioners Meet Growing Healthcare Demand. Web.
Naylor, M. D., & Kurtzman, E. T. (2010). The Role of Nurse Practitioners in Reinventing Primary Care. Health Affairs 29(5), 893-899.