Whether dealing with a mild hiccup or a severe illness, many people automatically seek a doctor’s assistance when experiencing health issues. Although consulting a doctor is most certainly an effective approach, there are other medical professionals you could contact for help, too, including nurse practitioners.
A nurse practitioner is a certified health care provider who offers medical care to patients, similar to a medical doctor. This includes making diagnoses, suggesting treatment options, and providing counseling.
As explained by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), a full-service national professional membership organization representing more than 234,000 nurse practitioners in the United States, nurse practitioners and medical doctors are not the same. First, their education requirements are different—although both must achieve advanced degrees. Second, their philosophies don’t always match up.
“What sets NPs [nurse practitioners] apart from other health care providers is their unique emphasis on the health and well-being of the whole person," states the group. "With a focus on health promotion, disease prevention, and health education and counseling, NPs guide patients in making smarter health and lifestyle choices, which in turn can lower patients' out-of-pocket costs.”
Where do nurse practitioners work?
These health care providers can be found working not just in hospitals, but also walk-in clinics and nursing homes. The Northport Wellness Center’s holistic nurse practitioner, Jennifer Zethner, RN, MS, CPNP, explains there is growing demand for nurse practitioners in holistic pediatrics, and attributes this to the extended duration of their treatment sessions. “Nurse practitioners generally can spend more time with the patient, but in many conventional practices even nurse practitioners are more squeezed for time than they ever have been before,” she says.
Why should you see a nurse practitioner?
Nurse practitioners typically have a different approach to health than traditional doctors, concentrating not just on treating patients, but also ensuring they're being proactive with their health to avoid further problems down the road.
Spending more time with a nurse practitioner versus a medical doctor offers much opportunity to achieve optimal health, Zethner explains. Patients not only forge deeper connections to those treating them, but also tend to ask more questions about their health, symptoms, and the pros and cons of various treatment options.
Cost savings are also a benefit of seeing a nurse practitioner. Oftentimes, consulting a nurse practitioner is more cost-efficient than seeing a traditional doctor, due to fewer visits required. If you go to a doctor’s office multiple times for one issue, and only spend a few minutes there, it'll most likely cost more than making one trip to a nurse practitioner.