This article was provided by Cross Country Nurses
Nurse practitioners may prove a dauntless force in the effort to quell COVID. These providers bring an unmatched lineup of traits that make them particularly suited to the task. Healthcare leaders may find that in the face of rising COVID cases and warnings that the third wave (which could be the worst yet) is upon us, the nurse practitioner is a critical part of the solution.
Nurse practitioners are particularly well-positioned to help healthcare organizations in the battle against COVID for myriad reasons. Once relatively limited, the nurse practitioner scope of practice has vastly expanded and now encompasses various healthcare settings, clinical skills, and educational training (AANP). But that’s not all. Here’s why nurse practitioners can be the secret weapon leaders need to navigate the third surge.
Extensive Clinical Skillset
Nurse practitioners’ ability to provide patient care has expanded over the years. Their growing clinical autonomy and extensive skillset couldn’t be more timely – as the relentless coronavirus pandemic compounded with a growing physician shortage makes nurse practitioners invaluable for healthcare. NPs can assess and diagnose patients, order, perform, supervise, and interpret diagnostic and lab tests, initiate and manage treatment, prescribe medication, and counsel and educate patients and families.
Delivery of Specialized Care
While nurse practitioners who are generalists are essential in providing comprehensive care for patients with and without COVID, those who specialize may be exceptionally valuable in battling the pandemic during this time. NPs who hold specializations in acute care, cardiac care, pediatrics, gerontology, and behavioral healthcare are in high demand and can fortify healthcare facilities in the face of a third wave.
The widespread adoption of telehealth during the pandemic has expanded nurse practitioners’ ability to deliver virtual care, reducing the risk of viral transmission while ensuring uninterrupted access to care for many Americans. Telehealth has shown to be particularly effective for isolated patients or in rural areas, and telehealth may prove to reduce morbidity and mortality during the COVID outbreak.
Crisis Management and Leadership Capabilities
Nurse practitioners can be instrumental in managing crises and leading staff through a third surge. A recent study found that NPs trained in responding to and preventing emergencies and safety crises reported high levels of crisis leadership efficacy (The Journal for Nurse Practitioners). Further research shows ICU advanced practitioners demonstrated improvement in leadership, self-confidence, teamwork, and medical crisis management with crisis training (The Journal for Trauma and Acute Care Surgery).
Relaxed Licensure and Expanded Range and Scope of Practice
Regulatory flexibility in response to the coronavirus has expanded nurse practitioners’ ability to care for patients. States have waived and suspended certain practice requirements for NPs regarding collaboration and supervision. This grants the most NPs autonomy of practice. Further, some governors have urged boards to license volunteer, inactive, retired, or out-of-state professionals, increasing health leaders’ access to NPs.
An Expanding Workforce
There are nearly 300,000 NPs in the nation, with tens of thousands of NPs in the educational pipeline (AANP). The vast majority of these providers prescribe medications, work full time, and accept Medicare and Medicaid patients. Nearly half hold hospital privileges. The sheer numbers of NPs make them a formidable force in the fight against COVID.
Rigorous Training and Background
The rigor and extent of nurse practitioners’ education and training cannot be understated. They are licensed, independent practitioners who hold master’s or doctorate degrees and board certification. Health leaders can be assured that nurse practitioner training is designed to equip providers to deliver safe, high-quality, patient-centered, and cost-effective care.
Versatility Across Healthcare Settings
Today’s healthcare leaders use nurse practitioners at hospitals, clinics, private practices, Veterans Affairs, Indian Health Care facilities, emergency rooms, urgent care sites, nursing homes, schools, colleges, public health departments, homeless clinics, home health, rural health facilities, critical access hospitals, and nearly every other healthcare setting.
Cost-Effective Care with Comparable Clinical Outcomes
Research over several decades has shown that nurse practitioners are cost-effective providers of high-quality care (AANP). Comparisons of salaries, productivity, and hospital profits show favorability. Studies show similar clinical outcomes and consistencies in treatment practices, prescribing behavior, and health status between physicians and nurse practitioners (Health Affairs).
Studies have shown that patients who saw nurse practitioners reported higher satisfaction levels with their care, especially regarding time spent on consultation, screening, assessment, counseling, and patient follow-up (Health Affairs). Researchers attribute this to the patient-centered approach of the NP training, often focused on social and cultural sensitivity and care coordination. These characteristics can be incredibly valuable in the fight against COVID.