Many Americans today avoid seeing their primary health care provider for routine care.
Long waits, short consultations, and high costs are just a few of the reasons that people skip going to the doctor’s office.
Nurse practitioners can provide many of the same services you get from your family doctor or a specialist.
Nurse led clinics offer a new model of care that is more accessible, affordable, and tailored to your needs.
1stCallHealth is ready to serve you as a nurse practitioner medical clinic in Washington DC.
But if you’ve never heard of a nurse practitioner before, or you’re new to the idea, you may have a lot of questions.
Not to worry – below you’ll find some of the most frequently asked questions we get about nurse practitioners.
What Is A Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are health care providers who are trained and licensed to support most of your health care needs.
Nurse practitioners start out as registered nurses and then complete additional classroom and clinical training.
Like physicians, they can act as primary care providers or as specialists.
Also like physicians, they work in both hospital and outpatient settings.
Most nurse practitioners work from a patient centered model of care.
This means they use a whole person approach, exploring your overall health and wellbeing in addition to immediate issues.
Your nurse practitioner can:
- Order diagnostic tests
- Help you receive a diagnosis
- Develop your treatment plan
- Prescribe medications
Is A Nurse Practitioner A Doctor?
A nurse practitioner is not a physician, but they can offer most of the same health care services as a physician.
To qualify, nurse practitioners have to complete a graduate degree – either a masters or a doctorate.
Some nurse practitioners hold a Doctor of Nursing degree.
This means some nurse practitioners are doctors, but a Doctor of Nursing degree is different from the Medical Doctor (MD) degree that a physician would complete.
Nurse practitioners and MDs both need to write certification exams to get licensed, but they report to different governing organizations.
Like physicians, nurse practitioners go through rigorous classroom learning and practical training.
A licensed nurse practitioner is trained to offer many of the services a physician does, apart from performing surgeries.
Like physicians, nurse practitioners can examine, diagnose, and prescribe treatments for their patients.
In Maryland and the District of Columbia, a candidate has to complete a nurse practitioner focused master’s program before they can apply for a license.
Some will choose to complete a Doctor of Nursing degree as well.
Your nurse practitioner may or may not hold a doctorate and wear a white coat.
Some nurse practitioners do choose to go by ‘doctor’ if they hold a doctorate, while others may go by ‘NP’.
Many nurse practitioners work closely with a physician, so you have a care team your health and discussing treatment strategies.
What’s The Difference Between A Nurse Practitioner And A Physician’s Assistant?
Nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants overlap in some ways, with a few key differences.
Prior Health Care Experience
Prior experience working in health care is not a requirement to become a physician’s assistant.
All nurse practitioners start out as registered nurses (RNs).
This means they hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing, have completed clinical training, and are licensed by the state in which they practice.
A registered nurse can apply to a nurse practitioner focused graduate program for more education and practical training.
The physician’s assistant certification process includes general education about patient care skills and the health care system.
All nurse practitioners in Maryland and DC must complete a master’s degree.
Nurse practitioner programs provide in depth education, clinical experience, and the opportunity to develop a specialization.
Physician’ assistants work under the supervision of a physician.
A nurse practitioner may or may not work under the supervision of a physician.
This depends on the laws in the state where they practice.
In Washington DC and Maryland, nurse practitioners do not require physician supervision.
Instead, nurse practitioners are required to have a working relationship with a consulting physician.
What Education Does A Nurse Practitioner Have?
Education and practice requirements for nurse practitioners can vary slightly in each state.
All nurse practitioners must meet certification standards set at the national level.
All nurse practitioners must:
- Be actively licensed as a registered nurse
- Hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Complete a nurse practitioner focused graduate program – masters or doctoral
- Pass the national nurse practitioner board certification exam
In Washington DC and Maryland, candidates must complete a master’s level training program to sit for the nurse practitioner board certification exam.
Nurse practitioner focused master’s programs include classroom education and over 500 hours of onsite clinical training.
Nurse practitioner degree programs also include population focused specializations so that candidates can develop specializations.
Once they begin practicing, nurse practitioners must also complete continuing education to maintain their certification and license.
Can A Nurse Practitioner Diagnose And Treat Illnesses?
In Maryland and Washington DC, licensed nurse practitioners can offer many of the services a physician provides, including:
- Diagnosing patients
- Prescribing medications
- Monitoring long term health
- Performing annual physicals
- Flu shots and flu treatment
- Ordering blood tests and other diagnostics
- Testing for vitamin C, magnesium, iron, or other common nutrient deficiencies
- Treating minor injuries
- Treating anxiety and other mental health issues
- Treating chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure
- Helping you recover from a stroke or other traumatic event
- Refer you to an appropriate specialist as needed
- And more
Nurse practitioners can treat patients with common, mild to moderate health concerns.
For injuries and illnesses needing specialized diagnosis and treatment, your nurse practitioner will refer you to an appropriate specialist.
Can Nurse Practitioners Run Their Own Private Practices?
At the time of writing this article (March 2023), 26 states and Washington DC allow nurse practitioners to run what’s referred to as a “full practice.”
This means that nurse practitioners can:
- Evaluate and diagnose patients
- Interpret test results
- Prescribe and monitor treatments
- Prescribe medications, including controlled substances
1stCallHealth is proud to be a nurse practitioner run practice serving Washington DC.
Why Should I See A Nurse Practitioner Instead Of A Doctor?
Nurse practitioners and nurse practitioner run clinics are becoming more common.
Many patients prefer seeing a nurse practitioner to seeing a doctor.
Wait times for appointments tend to be much shorter, and costs are often more affordable.
Appointments with a nurse practitioner can also feel a little friendlier and less rushed.
1stCallHealth nurse practitioners take more time to listen to your concerns and understand your full picture of health.
Book Your Appointment With 1stCallHealth Today
Nurse practitioners can be an affordable, accessible alternative to the hospital or doctor’s office.
No more endless waiting, short visits, and high costs.
To start getting the focused, quality health care you deserve, Book Your Appointment With 1stCallHealth Today.
1stCallHEALTH provides affordable access to primary care services. We believe that everyone deserves affordable, high quality primary care. Our vision is to challenge the status quo, focus on the individual, and empower personal control to change the way we think about healthcare.