Nurse practitioners (NPs) have provided health care services to patients for more than 40 years. The nurse practitioner role had its inception in the mid-1960s in response to a nationwide shortage of physicians. NPs provide primary and some acute care and are qualified to meet the majority of patients' health care needs. They promote a comprehensive approach to health care and emphasize the overall health and wellness of their patients.
Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who are prepared through advanced education and clinical training to provide preventive and acute health care services to individuals of all ages. Today, most NPs complete graduate-level education that leads to a master's degree. They work independently and collaboratively on the health care team.
NPs take health histories and provide complete physical examinations, diagnose and treat many common acute and chronic problems, interpret laboratory results and X-rays, prescribe and manage medications and other therapies, provide health teaching and counseling to support healthy lifestyle behaviors and prevent illness, and refer patients to other health professionals as needed.