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12 Reasons Why Nurse Practitioners are So Important in Healthcare Today
Written By: Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C
Have you wondered what is the importance of nurse practitioners in healthcare? Nurse practitioners are an essential piece of the healthcare system. While their scope of practice may vary from state to state, the impact they leave on their patients is significant and long-lasting. With the current physician shortage, aging population, and ability to care for patients with more complex medical needs, the need for people to be able to care for the patients is evident. Below you will find 12 reasons why nurse practitioners are so important in healthcare.
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WHY ARE NURSE PRACTITIONERS IMPORTANT IN HEALTHCARE?
Nurse practitioners are important in healthcare. The following are the 12 reasons why nurse practitioners are so important in healthcare today.
REASON #1: Help provide healthcare to underserved areas
The importance of nurse practitioners in healthcare is unmistakable as they help provide care to people who live in underserved areas. This may include urban and rural areas with limited access due to a lack of providers leading to a lack of healthcare resources and further enhancing health disparities. NPs can help with this by increasing access either in person or via telehealth to underserved areas leading to greater health outcomes and overall improved health for the population.
REASON #2: Approach their practice more holistically
The NP's nursing background allows the NP to approach each patient individually and look at more than just their physical health when providing care. The NP knows that for patients to be in their best state of health, they must also focus on their mental, spiritual, and emotional health—and the NP will refer their patients to specialists when indicated.
At times, holistic care also includes involving the family in the patient's care--as long as the patient permits having them involved. Having a family member involved in care may consist of them attending appointments, helping set up weekly medications, or driving to doctor's appointments--which will lead to a better understanding of their illnesses and compliance with recommendations from the NP and other healthcare providers.
REASON #3: Emphasize the importance of patient education
Nurse practitioners emphasize education when caring for their patients. This stems from their nursing background and degree, where one of the significant roles of the nurse is to educate their patient. This education is tailored to the individual and may include information about diagnoses, medications and treatment plans, health promotion, and why it is important. This education aims to lead to better health outcomes and decrease ER visits and hospitalizations.
REASON #4: Help fill the void caused by the physician shortage
Nurse practitioners are important in healthcare because they help fill the void caused by the physician shortage. The Association of American Medical Colleges
predicts that there will be a shortage of 37,800 to 124,000 physicians by 2034—in both family practice and specialty care. This is a significant shortage, and NPs are a great way to help meet the needs of the patients. Nurse practitioners can work alongside physicians or, in some states, practice independently to deliver care. The overall population is also living longer, supporting the need for more healthcare providers to meet their needs.
REASON #5: Great Listeners
Nurse practitioners are great listeners, which again is due to their nursing background and the skills learned in their BSN program. Nurse practitioners will take a few extra minutes with their patients to listen and fully understand their patient’s concerns, problems and questions. By taking these few additional minutes, nurse practitioners demonstrate compassion and respect, laying the foundation for a trusting relationship with their patients. Genuinely listening to your patient reflects the desire to provide the best care possible for their patients.
REASON #6: Emphasize health promotion
The importance of nurse practitioners in healthcare is recognizable because of the emphasis on health promotion and prevention. The NP aids in ensuring the patient is completing their age-appropriate cancer screenings, which may identify cancer in an earlier stage, which will hopefully lead to a better prognosis and a better-tolerated treatment plan.
The NP will also help their patients stay up to date on immunizations and well-child checks. The NP will also help complete annual physicals, which include lab work to identify at-risk patients or monitor and manage established chronic diseases for the patient. This leads to better health management, decreased hospitalizations, decreased healthcare costs, and improved overall health.
REASON #7: Increase revenue for their practice
Nurse practitioners are important to healthcare leading to increased revenue for their practicing allowing them to remain open and provide the services needed. Nurse practitioners will enable the practice to see more patients every year, and on average, they see 15-20 patients a day. This increased revenue ensures that the services needed by the patients are available and the consumer, or patient, is receiving high-quality care.
REASON #8: Advocate for healthcare policy
The importance of nurse practitioners in healthcare is evident as they play a very active role in advocating for healthcare policy
—emphasizing healthcare policies for nurse practitioners. These policies may impact NPs across the nation or are state specific. NPs interested in getting involved should start with their state board of nursing and any NP organizations specific to the state where they practice. These policies may broaden their scope of practice—possibly through a higher level of independence in practice, the ability to sign different forms, and prescribing rights. Advocating for these policy changes will positively impact future NPs and the health system.
REASON #9: Greater patient satisfaction
Many studies have been conducted over the last ten years that have demonstrated that patients who have received care from NPs have a higher level of patient satisfaction
. This may be due to the cost-effectiveness of NPs, shorter hospital stays, and fewer ER visits associated with NPs. It may also be related to the holistic approach NPs take when caring for their patients, the education provided, or the simple fact that they are great listeners. Regardless of the reason, higher patient satisfaction can lead to greater trust between the NP and patient and better health outcomes.
REASON #10: Cost-effective
There are many ways nurse practitioners are found to be cost-effective
while providing high-quality healthcare. This is due to their education's lower cost than a physician (MD or DO). The cost of employing an NP is also cheaper as their hourly rate is typically 1/3 to ½, leading to the overall cost of labor per visit being less than a physician.
Nurse practitioners have also been associated with decreased healthcare costs, including fewer ER visits and hospitalizations, and if their patients are admitted, their length of stay is typically shorter. Regarding reduced healthcare costs, older adults and acute care patients who NPs manage have been associated with lower costs.
REASON #11: Advocate for their community
As stated above, the importance of nurse practitioners in healthcare is seen through policy advocacy, but they also are excellent advocates for their community. This may be through community service and volunteering at community screenings that are free to the public, such as BP screenings, sports physicals, or skin cancer screenings. They will educate their patients and community on healthcare services available to them at free or reduced cost—an example is all women matter, where women without health insurance can receive breast cancer screenings for a free or reduced price. They will also direct them to food pantries or shelters and advocate for their community in the local, state, and national governments when needed.
REASON #12: Improve healthcare outcomes
Ultimately, nurse practitioners improve healthcare outcomes for their patients, community, and overall population. This is achieved through many reasons, including advocacy, increasing access, cost-effectiveness, and increased trust and patient satisfaction. These improved outcomes lead to healthier individuals, a decrease in uncontrolled chronic health problems, early identification of cancers, or even identification of high-risk patients to implement a plan to reduce the risk of cancer. In other words, the importance of nurse practitioners is apparent and they are an excellent asset to the healthcare team!
My Final Thoughts
Did I answer what is the importance of nurse practitioners in healthcare? Above I listed 12 reasons why nurse practitioners are so important in healthcare. As you can see, nurse practitioners are essential to healthcare, and they help fill voids due to the physician shortage, provide cost-effective care and improve overall healthcare outcomes for patients. If you are debating on pursuing this career path—what are you waiting for?
Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C
Kasee Wiesen is a practicing family nurse practitioner. Her nursing background includes emergency medicine, pediatrics and peri-op. Education is a passion of Kasee’s, and she has taught BSN, RN-BSN and DNP students, and has enjoyed every moment of it!