(BPT) - If you've been to a doctor's office, walk-in health clinic or hospital recently, the odds are pretty good that you have met or received care from an advanced practice registered nurse. Known as APRNs, they deliver a variety of primary care services and some specialized clinical services, educate patients on health and wellness, advocate for patient safety, and provide compassion and support during some of the most difficult times in their patients' lives.
While all nurses have special training, APRNs have pursued advanced degrees that give them even more knowledge to make a difference. As a result, they are in high demand. From the implementation of the Affordable Care Act to the growth of Accountable Care Organizations, APRNs have an important part to play in improving access to care. This is good news for patients as well as individuals considering a career in nursing or advancing their nursing career.
'The role of nurses with advanced practice training and education has long been misunderstood by the general public and health care community alike,' says Kaplan University School of Nursing Dean and Vice President Chandice Covington. 'Because demand is only set to grow for these highly skilled individuals, it's time to shine a light on the APRNs in the nursing profession.'
In honor of National Nurses Week 2016, Kaplan University School of Nursing launched the 'Know Your Advanced Practice RN' campaign. The goal is to bring clarity and promote the important role of APRNs to the delivery of health care in the United States, and to support the important work of national nursing professional organizations on this issue. Learn more at www.kaplanuniversity.edu/nursing/knowyourAPRN.
Advanced practice RNs have four designated roles, as outlined by the Campaign for Consensus, a national education and advocacy campaign from the National Council for State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), and described below. Each allow nurses to make significant contributions to the delivery of health care and provide greater access for patients.
1. Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP)
Certified nurse practitioners can choose to practice independently in wide-ranging specialties such as family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, women's health and geriatrics. Education, training and certification follow two distinct paths to prepare CNPs for practice in primary care or acute care settings. Regardless of setting, CNPs gain a range of clinical skills that include diagnosing and managing acute and chronic conditions; ordering and interpreting laboratory and imaging studies; prescribing medication; and making appropriate referrals for patients and families.
2. The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
Nurses who excel at seeing the big picture make great clinical nurse specialists. Training gives CNSs the skills to integrate and improve patient care and outcomes across the health care spectrum. A CNS career also empowers nurses to promote the field of nursing, champion evidence-based practices, and prevent illness and risky health behaviors in a variety of patient populations.
3. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
CRNAs provide anesthesia care for people of all ages. For nurses that choose this career path, they can work in a hospital, pain management center, private physician office and many other settings. They can also apply specialized skills to help a wide variety of patients who require invasive medical procedures, from the relatively healthy to those with life-threatening injuries or illnesses.
4. Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)
In addition to assisting in childbirth, registered nurses who become certified nurse-midwives provide women with a full range of primary health care services. These advanced practice nurses provide gynecologic, family planning, preconception, prenatal, postpartum, and newborn care and services. Many even treat the male partners of their female clients for STDs and reproductive health issues. Similar to CRNAs, certified nurse-midwives can choose to work in a variety of settings, including in homes, birth centers and public health clinics.
"APRNs are hard working professionals that have far reaching influences on patient care on a variety of levels every day," says Covington. "Our health care system is truly made better by their service and dedication."