Nurse Practitioners For Routine Health Care
Maybe a nurse practitioner(NP) could simplify your routine medical care. NPs are registered nurses with advanced training in, say, adult or geriatric care and are licensed to perform many of the services normally done by doctors. According to the American College of Nurse Practitioners(ACNP), there are about 90,000 nurse practitioners across the country. If you live in a rural area, a nurse may be your closest and most accedssible health care provider.
What the Nurse OrderedDepending on the state you live in, a nurse practitioner can handle some or all of the following:
- Provide health-maintenance care and do physical exams.
- Diagnose and treat acute health problems, such as minor infections, and injuries.
- Diagnose, treat and monitor chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Order, perform and interpret basic diagnostic lab work and X-rays.
- Prescribe medications.
In varying degrees, nurse practitioners in every state(except Georgia) and the District of Columbia are allowed to write prescriptions.
A nurse practitioners care should complement, not replace, a doctor's expertise, and most states require that NPs maintain working relationships with one or more physicians in their area.
If you decide to use a nurse practitioner, inform your doctor and make sure the nurse keeps the doctor up-to-date on the care you're receiving.
NP Care Advantages
Some people are hesitant about receiving health care from someone other than a medical doctor. But perhaps they should reconsider, because nurse practitioners are doing a good job taking care of their patients. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that NPs provide patients with health care that is routinely equal to that provided by physicians.
Another plus of using nurse practitioners is that they typically spend more time with patients than doctors and often develop closer relationships. On top of that, it's usually easier to get a timely appointment with an NP, and you're likely to spend less time cooling heels in the waiting room.
Finding a Practitioner; Checking Credentials
Call your health insurer to make sure your plan will cover a visit. (Medicare and Medigap insurers have covered visits to liscensed nurse practitioners since 1997.)
When you contact a prospective NP, ask about his or her credentials, experience, training and board certification.
To find a nurse practitioner in your area, go to www.npcentral.net, the Web site of a nonprofit nurse-practitioner advocate. Click on "NP Directory" in the right-hand column, and then on "Find a Nurse Practitioner." If nothing comes up for your area, click on "NP Location Services" and provide your contact information. A staffer will use the information to try to find someone in your area. You can also call 800-467-7701.
You can review the nursing board's certification requirements in your state and learn more about NPs by clicking on "Organizations" at the above Web address.
Reprinted by permission from the August 2002 issue of Kiplinger's Retirement Report, Copyright 2002, The Kiplinger Washinton Editors. The Report is published monthly; for subscription information, call 800-544-0155 or go to www. kiplinger.com.
Updated August 21, 2002