GREAT FALLS — More and more Americans are turning to Nurse Practitioners (NPs) as their primary health care provider.
This week is National Nurse Practitioner Week which serves as an opportunity to highlight the role of NPs and the difference they make in the lives of patients.
NPs can evaluate patients, diagnose, write prescriptions, and bring a comprehensive perspective to health care. Carrie Powell — an NP in Family Medicine at Benefis Health System — has been practicing for more than 20 years.
Her medical career started by getting a bachelor's degree in nursing. Wanting to fulfill her role in a larger capacity, she got on the nurse practitioner track by earning a master’s degree.
“That allows us to do specialties in that area to extend beyond whether it be as a family nurse practitioner, endocrinology, cardiology, and so forth,” said Powell.
NPs must also have a Registered Nurse License, National Board Certification, and state NP Licensure/Registration. Powell is one of about 60 NPs at Benefis and according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, and one of about 325,000 NPs nationwide.
“Most often times the nurse practitioner role really is to augment and collaborate with the other medical specialties within the medical field,” said Powell.
When looking for a health care provider, Magen Fried chose a nurse practitioner for the holistic care she would receive.
“Anything from my mental health to anything that may be going on with my heart, she’s available to evaluate that and then refer me out to whatever specialist I may need,” said Fried.
Carrie says Nurse Practitioner week seems to have added importance this year. Like many medical professions, NP’s have felt the pressure of COVID-19.
“I think we’ve all probably went beyond what our natural roles have been in whatever area whether it be personal or professional to really help out in whatever area we can to assist with this pandemic,” said Powell.
One other plus of seeing a nurse practitioner is the cost. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, patients who see NPs as their primary care provider often have fewer emergency room visits, shorter hospital stays and lower medication costs.