Over the past three decades, the role of the nurse practitioner has evolved in response to society's need for primary and specialty patient care (National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, Advanced Nursing Practice: Curriculum Guidelines and Program Standards for Nurse Practitioner Education 2nd edition (1995)). As a result, the nearly 30,000 nurse practitioners in this country are in increasing demand to provide comprehensive, collaborative primary and specialty care for individuals, families, and communities in a variety of settings. Their efforts not only meet the basic health care needs of rural and inner city populations, but also deliver primary care to other underserved populations such as schoolchildren, the homeless, and the elderly.
Today, certifications for Advanced Practice Nursing include:
- Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP)
- Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
- Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP)
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
- OB/GYN Nurse Practitioner (OGNP)
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
Nurse practitioners working in these roles offer quality and cost-effective care by providing many of the same health care services as physicians, such as performing physical examinations; implementing minor medical procedures such as casting; treating illnesses; and prescribing medications. In fact, nurse practitioners can deliver as much as 80 percent of the health care services provided by primary care physicians while improving cost effectiveness. What distinguishes nurse practitioners from other primary care providers is their focus on wellness promotion and illness prevention from holistic, family, and community perspectives.
California is currently facing a crisis in the availability of primary health care providers. State and federal sources predict that demand will continue to outpace supply as the need for nurses with advanced practice skills increases in light of current health care reforms.
Aware of these trends and changes in health care delivery that are sweeping the country, nurses are becoming increasingly interested in preparing themselves as primary care clinicians through programs such as Western University's Master of Science in Nursing/Family Nurse Practitioner program. From the non-degree certificate programs of the sixties, educational preparation of nurse practitioners has matured along with the NP role itself. Graduate nursing programs provide the content, values, skills and competencies necessary to prepare advanced practice nurses.
Web sites of particular interest to practicing or aspiring nurse practitioners include: