A nurse by any other name

(Illinois Times) I recently made a case (“Nurse, Nurse!”) for the liberalization of the State of Illinois rules that restrict what nurse practitioners can do.

A lot of people don’t know exactly what a nurse practitioner is, thanks to the unfortunate title he or she bears. A nurse practitioner by any other name would be more descriptive. The term “practitioner” in particular has unfortunate connotations — MDs are in practice, while NPs practice.

The name belies the rigor of the training received by these not-quite-physicians. The would-be NP must earn national certification as a nurse in a specific field, earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree, which itself usually requires clinical training that field and at least two years of advanced study. As for what they do: A competent NP who encounters a medical condition beyond his or her expertise will refer the patient to an MD – not something that many MDs in general practice scruple to do.

A more in-depth treatment of the topic than I was able to provide in a column can found here.