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What is a Nurse Practitioner? Questions and Answers

Laury Berkwitt, APRN, Garofalo Obgyn, NorwalkLaury Berkwitt is a nurse practitioner, which means that she’s a nurse with a graduate degree in advanced practice nursing. Nurse practitioners are allowed a higher level of independence than registered nurses (RNs), and some nurse practitioners work in clinics without doctor supervision. Some, such as Laury, work in practices where doctors are available for consultation if medically necessary.

Nurse practitioners have generally been trained to focus on the health and well-being of the whole person. With their focus on health management, disease prevention, counseling and education, nurse practitioners help guide patients to make smarter health and lifestyle choices.

Nurse practitioners are not just healthcare providers; many are also mentors, educators, researchers and administrators. Many nurse practitioners participate in a variety of health policy activities at local, state, national and international levels.

What are the educational requirements to become a nurse practitioner?

All nurse practitioners must complete a master’s or doctoral degree program and have advanced clinical training beyond their initial professional RN preparation. (Laury has a bachelor’s degree in nursing from The University of Vermont and a master’s degree in nursing from Columbia University.) In addition, nurse practitioners must pass a national certification, followed by periodic reviews and evaluations. They also follow a code for ethical practices.

Many nurse practitioners have received additional certifications or completed specialized studies in specific medical fields. For Laury, these studies have focused on the cervix — the long, narrow part of the uterus where it joins with the top end of the vagina.

What services do nurse practitioners provide?

Like other nurse practitioners, Laury provides a wide range of primary, acute and specialty healthcare services. These services include:

• taking patient histories
• performing physical exams
• ordering, performing and interpreting various medical and laboratory tests and procedures
• diagnosing, treating, and managing diseases
• prescribing medications and other treatments
• coordinating referrals
• counseling patients
• educating patients on disease prevention and positive health and lifestyle choices

What are the benefits of seeing a nurse practitioner?

Nurse practitioners are trained to focus on the whole person when they treat health problems. Prevention, wellness and education are their top priorities. As a nurse practitioner, Laury encourages patients to participate in their own healthcare. This can result in less expensive treatments, fewer prescriptions and shorter hospital stays.