I recently joined the professional staff at Oak Street Medical, adding depth to our health care services for women. I look forward to working with the excellent doctors at Oak Street Medical and feel privileged to be chosen as the clinic’s first-ever nurse practitioner. Although nurse practitioners have been licensed to practice in Oregon for more than 30 years, many patients don’t understand what a nurse practitioner is or how they differ from a doctor.
What is a nurse practitioner?
A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse who has earned a master’s degree in nursing and completed clinical training in primary care and pharmacology. Training programs for NPs focus on specific clinical areas of medicine. In addition to women’s health, nurse practitioners are trained in family medicine, adult medicine, pediatrics, neonatology, gerontology, psychiatry and midwifery. NPs may hold national board certification in their specialty area and are licensed through state nursing boards, rather than medical boards.
History of nurse practitioners Spurred by a shortage of doctors, the concept of the nurse practitioner serving as a primary care provider was introduced about 40 years ago. The first official training program for NPs in the United States was created in 1965, to help balance rising health care costs and increase the number of health care providers and resources. Many NPs practice in rural and inner-city environments that are typically underserved and have difficulty attracting and keeping doctors.
What kind of care does a nurse practitioner provide?
In general, nurse practitioners focus on wellness and disease prevention with emphasis on patient and family education. They also provide a wide range of specialized treatment, diagnose disease and prescribe medications. Depending on their scope of practice, some Nurse Practitioners serve as a patient’s primary health care provider.
A visit to an NP may include a comprehensive health history or thorough physical exam. NPs may also order and interpret diagnostic imaging and laboratory tests, should they be required. NPs work closely with all types of health care professionals – physical therapists, counselors, dietitians, acupuncturists and others. When necessary, NPs offer referrals to provide patients the most comprehensive and holistic care possible.
Will medical insurance cover my visit to a nurse practitioner?
Nurse practitioners are allowed by law to bill for their services through Medicare and private medical insurance companies.
What NP services will be available at Oak Street Medical? My practice as a women’s health care nurse practitioner encompasses a wide range of services, including:
- Contraception, from birth control pills to intrauterine devices, implants, injections, rings and patches.
- Visits for teens to discuss the menstrual cycle, developing sexuality, and what to expect at their first gynecologic exam.
- Menopause-transition consults to help women understand this stage in the life cycle, including symptoms, common changes in the body, hormonal support treatment options, and strategies for achieving optimal health.
- Consults for women suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Evaluation and treatment for a variety of gynecological problems, including disorders of the vulva and cervix, vaginal infections, ovarian cysts, abnormal uterine bleeding, pelvic pain and urinary incontinence.
- Consults for sexual dysfunction or evaluation when sex is painful.
Will any new services be offered?
Oak Street Medical will soon offer pelvic ultrasounds to evaluate gynecologic problems, including pelvic pain, post-menopausal bleeding, ovarian cysts and uterine fibroid tumors. Ultrasound has become an invaluable adjunct to medical evaluation and will be used in a variety of ways to evaluate both men and women.