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What is a nurse practitioner?

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a licensed registered nurse (RN) who has had advanced education at the graduate level, including many hours of clinical training. Most practicing NPs have a master's or doctoral degree and all new NPs must have either a master's or doctoral degree before they can become licensed. In New Mexico and many other states, NPs must also have national certification in their area of specialty. NPs are board certified in such areas as family, adult, acute care, pediatrics, gerontology, psychiatry, oncology, and women's health. There are almost 800 NPs in New Mexico, providing health care to patients in every part of the state. For more information describing nurse practitioners and what they can do for you, watch this short You Tube video, Nurse Practitioners and Your Health.

What do nurse practitioners do?

NPs provide health care for all types of health problems in patients of all ages, depending on the area of certification. For example, pediatric NPs focus on children's health issues while family NPs focus on health issues seen in families with members of all ages. NPs diagnose and treat health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, infections, or injuries. They also stress health maintenance and promotion. NPs perform physical examinations, order tests and x-rays, prescribe medications, counsel patients, consult with or refer to other health care providers, and provide end-of-life care. Because they are nurses, NPs combine nursing and medical care to give their patients excellent health care and help them make better health care decisions. NPs have a holistic approach - that is, they look at the whole person, not just the person's illness or injury.

Where do nurse practitioners work?

Nurse practitioners work in all health care settings. NPs are in private health care practices, clinics, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, student or employee health centers, and everywhere patients receive health care. NPs are often the only health care providers in the rural areas of New Mexico. The New Mexico Board of Nursing licenses NPs in New Mexico as independent practitioners, so NPs aren't limited to working where there is a physician.

Will my insurance cover a visit to a nurse practitioner?

Medicare, Medicaid, and many private insurers credential NPs and include them on their lists of providers. There are still regulations that prevent NPs from ordering some essential services. For example, NPs may not order home health care. Because these are nation-wide issues, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners is actively working in Washington to address the restrictive regulations that prevent NPs from providing some essential services to our patients.

Do nurse practitioners provide good care?

There has been much research over the last 40 years showing that NPs provide excellent health care. NPs give their patients care resulting in health outcomes as good as (or in certain situations better than) those of physicians. NPs often spend more time with patients and their education and practice is based on listening closely to patients' concerns and providing individualized care. Patents who see NPs are more satisfied with their care and say their NP is very good about giving health advice. NPs provide high quality care in a cost effective manner. For more information, download detailed reports from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners on the quality of care and cost effectiveness of NPs.

How can I find a nurse practitioner to be my health care provider?

Your health insurance company can provide you with a list of health care practitioners, including the nurse practitioners. You can also go to the American Association of Nurse Practitioner website page, Find a Nurse Practitioner.

How NPs help fill health care gaps

Links for more information


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