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Nurse Practitioners: A growing and important group in healthcare


November 12-18, 2017 is recognized as National Nurse Practitioner week. There are more than 234,000 of them in the U.S. and an additional 23,000 Nurse Practitioner (NP) students graduating each year. There are more than 16,000 NPs in Texas, and the number is increasing each year.

Kay Hatton, who has been with Covenant since 1996, is a perinatal nurse practitioner in Maternal/Fetal medicine. She gives us a look at the importance of nurse practitioners, what they do and don’t do, and how they fill a need in healthcare settings.

Many of the Nurse Practitioners across Texas are graduates of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing, which offers graduate NP programs in Family, Pediatric Primary Care, Pediatric Acute Care, Acute Care-Adult Gerontology, and Psychiatric studies.

Nurse Practitioners are advanced-practice registered nurses who have obtained specialized education and clinical training, through master’s and doctoral degrees. This educational preparation provides them with specialized knowledge and clinical competency which enables them to practice in various healthcare settings as primary and/or specialty care providers. Most NPs have national certification in their area of expertise. They provide high-quality healthcare within communities and are especially valuable as primary care providers in underserved rural communities.

NPs diagnose and treat acute and chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, infections and injuries. They order and interpret laboratory and diagnostic tests; prescribe medications and treatments; and provide health education and counseling, ultimately helping patients to make smarter health and lifestyle choices.

Nurse Practitioners practice under the rules and regulations of the state board of nursing in which they are licensed, as well as, in accordance with the education and certification that was completed. Approximately 62 percent of NPs in the U.S. are Family Nurse Practitioners. Other clinical focus areas are Adult, Acute Care, Neonatal, Pediatric, Women’s Health, Psychiatric, and Gerontology.

NPs represent a large number of healthcare providers in various settings, including inpatient acute care, critical care units, outpatient ambulatory and urgent care clinics, or long-term rehab units. Many NPs and physicians practice together as a team in specialty areas. Covenant Health has many NPs that practice in both inpatient and outpatient areas across our healthcare system.

More than 20 states in the U.S. have granted full-practice authority to Nurse Practitioners, allowing them to practice to the full extent of their education and expertise. Nurse Practitioners who practice in Texas have restricted practice, which affects many areas of practice including prescriptive authority. In Texas, Nurse Practitioners have prescriptive authority through written agreements with a collaborating physician. There continues to be ongoing legislative efforts at the state level to gain support for full-practice authority in Texas.

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Kay R. Hatton, APRN, MSN, RDMS, PNNP (Perinatal Nurse Practitioner) completed her Perinatal Nurse Practitioner studies at Regis University in Denver in 1998; and has been a Nurse Practitioner with the Covenant Maternal Fetal group since. She is certified as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) in OB-GYN since 1996, which has been of benefit in her NP practice over the years. The Perinatal Nurse Practitioner represents a small group of Nurse Practitioners across the U.S. (approximately 100) that are trained in providing care for the special population of mothers and families experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, along with Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists.

Hatton was elected to serve as vice president/president-elect from 2011-2013; and as president 2013-2015 of the South Plains Nurse Practitioner Association (SPNPA), the local NP organization. SPNPA has a membership of approximately 85 members. Hatton was awarded South Plains Nurse Practitioner of the Year in 2014. In addition, she was elected to the board of directors for the Texas Nurse Practitioner Association, serving as South Plains Regional Representative for two terms from 2013-2016. Hatton continues to be active in these organizations and mentoring NP students; and encourages all NPs to stay active in their professional organizations and stay current on issues that can have an impact on their practice.
This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please seek medical advice from your physician for any related medical condition. If you are in need of a primary care doctor, click here to find one in the Covenant Health network.

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