While most people have become accustomed to being seen by physician assistants in addition to their regular doctors, some patients might have questions about the role of nurse practitioners.
At New Hanover Regional Medical Center, physician assistants and nurse practitioners are also called advanced practice providers.
Physician assistants, also called PAs, and nurse practitioners, also called NPs, train separately and have different licensing. But when the patient sees us in the office, we’re both focusing on the same needs. Most patients won’t notice the difference. Both PAs and NPs can examine patients, diagnose illnesses, prescribe medication and provide treatment.
You must be a registered nurse before pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner. I started as a registered nurse in 2004.
As a registered nurse, I worked in the medical intensive care unit for the first five years. I then worked as a nursing supervisor and also taught clinical courses for nursing students at NHRMC.
Using a scholarship from The Duke Endowment, I earned a master of science in nursing with a focus in nursing education. In 2011, I completed a post master’s certificate with a focus as a family nurse practitioner. After that, my first job as a nurse practitioner was with NHRMC Physician Group - New Hanover Regional Hospitalists. I later completed a post master’s certificate with a focus in acute care.
Most nurse practitioner programs are moving now to a doctorate. Students must complete a four-year undergraduate degree and a two-year post-graduate, or three-year if you’re doing the doctorate.
I became a nurse practitioner for many reasons. I enjoyed patient interactions but wanted to know more and build off my foundation as a registered nurse. Becoming an advanced practice nurse allowed me to learn more about disease management and gave me the ability to offer treatment for patients.
I currently work with NHRMC Physician Group - New Hanover Medical Group, which includes both internal and family medicine. I see a variety of patients in the outpatient setting. This can include acute problems such as pneumonia, upper respiratory infections, skin problems and gastrointestinal problems.
Having PAs and NPs in primary care offices increases access for patients with more appointments available each day, which may decrease wait times for patients trying to get in with their physician. We work as a team and their physician is always informed of and involved in their care.
I also care for diabetic patients and work with our clinical pharmacist and another nurse practitioner to perform diabetes education and management. We try to focus our efforts on patients who need better diabetic control to prevent long-term complications.
Rand Pennington is a nurse practitioner with NHRMC Physician Group - New Hanover Medical Group. He is a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American Nurses Association and the North Carolina Nurses Association.