Celebrating National Nurse Practitioners Week

November 13 through 19 is 2011's National Nurse Practitioners Week. In the 1960's, there was a movement in medicine toward specialization and many physicians chose to leave primary care in preference of specialty practice.  In 1965, Dr. Loretta C. Ford and (pediatrician) Dr. Henry K. Silver launched the first nurse practitioner program, for pediatric nurses, at the University of Colorado.

This training eventually evolved into graduate education, and today, is expanding into clinical doctorate education. Nurse practitioners not only were able to fill a gap in primary care, but to also lead nursing and health care research, expand nursing practice theory, and improve patient care access and outcomes.

Nurse practitioners are a valuable and reliable way to expand primary care and decrease health care costs. "We provide care and patient outcomes are equivalent to or better than that of other health care providers," says Cynthia Beecher, ARNP, a nurse practitioner at KGH Urgent Care West. "The nurse practitioner workforce continues to grow, with over 106,000 nurses now in this role, and they are especially important in rural and underserved areas. In fact, the American Academy of Family Physicians predicts that by 2020, there will be a shortage of 40,000 family physicians, so nurse practitioners will be even more in need."

Nurse practitioners have differentiated themselves from other clinicians by focusing on the whole person when treating specific health problems, as well as educating the patient on the effects those problems will have on them. More and more consumers are choosing nurse practitioners as their "partner" in healthcare because, in addition to providing high-quality primary, acute and specialty healthcare, nurse practitioners empower patients to maintain and improve their health by providing individualized and comprehensive health education and counseling. They focus on promoting health and preventing disease, which can reduce healthcare costs for patients.

A report was recently issued by the Institute on Medicare and Medicaid Payment Issues, together with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, that strongly recommended advanced practice registered nurses, including nurse practitioners, be permitted to practice the full scope of their abilities - and that unnecessary barriers to that practice be removed.

"We want to thank KGH for their continued support of advanced registered nurse practitioners in our community," she concludes.