Diagnose and treat acute, episodic, or chronic illness, independently or as part of a healthcare team. May focus on health promotion and disease prevention. May order, perform or interpret diagnostic tests such as lab work and x rays. May prescribe medication. Must be registered nurses who have specialized graduate education.
At hospitals and clinics, the professional who examines, diagnoses, and treats patients’ illnesses may not be an MD, but instead, a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners review patient histories and symptoms to diagnose health conditions. If a patient is sick or has an injury, the nurse practitioner decides how to treat it, prescribes appropriate medication, and evaluates the patient’s response to medicines and treatments. Nurse practitioners order and interpret lab tests and x-rays, record their patients’ progress and symptoms, and refer to specialists as needed. These professionals have a particular focus on providing education on health conditions and health-management techniques to empower their patients. They talk with patients about how effective, safe, and expensive their treatment options are. Nurse practitioners may have a general family practice or work in emergency medicine, oncology, or women’s health. They may focus on a population like children, the elderly, or those with mental illness. Some nurse practitioners work in clinics independently; however, all nurse practitioners consult with physicians and other health professionals when needed. Nurse practitioners are required to have a master’s degree, a registered nurse license, and in most states, professional certification. Between spending generous time with patients and putting a focus on health promotion, this is an occupation that receives very high satisfaction marks from those it serves.
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