Healthcare is an ever-evolving field. In the not too distant past, there were doctors and nurses. That was it, before the late 1960s with the creation of Nurse Practitioners.
They fill the traditional roles of both doctors and nurses, and the position is ever-growing in popularity.
To give you an idea, ten years ago, there were about 130,000 Nurse Practitioners in the US. As of 2018, there are more than 248,000.
CHI Family Nurse Practitioner Billie Madler explains, “Those Nurse Practitioners are seeing over 1-billion patient visits annually, and so they are filling an incredible need in meeting a demand in the healthcare industry. And that’s really where the whole profession started from, was meeting a need.”
With nursing school and then an extra two to four years tacked on, Nurse Practitioners can be in school for up to eight years.
Dolly Muziri is in her second year at the University of Mary’s graduate NP Program, under Madler’s instruction.
She shares, “It is definitely extensive, and during that extensive learning, you’ll gain a lot of knowledge that you’ll be able to use in your practice. So I would say, if you’re thinking about doing it, go for it, because it’s worth it.”
Muziri moved to North Dakota from Zimbabwe in 2011 to start nursing school, but she’s always been interested in healthcare.
She explains, “I also took care of my sick grandmother who really inspired me to have that passion to take care of people, and to even be a part of the healing process for somebody who needs care.”
Muziri says she decided to go back to school to specialize as a practitioner because she realized she could be even more helpful to patients that way.
She adds, “I’m going to go into primary care because I do like the option of being able to see individuals from when they are newborns to when they are in their older age.”
Madler says the difference between a doctor and Nurse Practitioner comes down to education. But it is not always obvious to the patient.
She shares an example, “In many of our rural areas, Nurse Practitioners are serving as the sole providers for those communities, and patients identify with them as their provider.”
Madler says because they don’t need a doctor’s oversight in many situations, educating more Nurse Practitioners is a great way to provide increased access to healthcare, quicker.
Madler also told us, physicians are moving more and more into specialty care, and away from family care, or that primary care. Nurse Practitioners are stepping into those roles instead.