The $125 million donation by Penn alumnus Leonard A. Lauder, Chairman Emeritus of The Estee Lauder Companies, to create this first-of-its-kind, tuition-free program is the largest gift ever to an American nursing school.
The gift comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the nation’s acute shortage of primary care providers and persisting inequities in access to quality healthcare.
“This is the most timely and consequential gift not only for our university but for our country. It is unprecedented in its potential to address America’s most critical need of providing primary health care to all who currently lack it by investing in nurses,” says former Penn President Amy Gutmann. “Growing the number of nurse practitioners who are prepared and committed to working in underserved areas is the most practical and inspiring way to ensure a healthier country. I am grateful and honored that Leonard would make this gift to Penn Nursing, and thrilled to know that it will have an immediate impact that will last far into the future.”
University of Pennsylvania’s new tuition-free program to recruit, train and deploy nurse practitioners to underserved communities across the U.S.
Nurse practitioners are leaders on the front lines of care, a role never more important as Americans confront a primary healthcare shortage in their communities. With their advanced clinical training and graduate education, nurse practitioners have the knowledge and skill to supervise and manage critical aspects of care in decision-making, from patient diagnosis to ordering and interpreting tests, to prescribing medication. In addition, nurse practitioners deliver high-quality primary care to people of all ages, such as treating common illnesses, managing chronic conditions, and providing preventive care that helps patients stay healthy.
Nurse practitioners can also able to take on key leadership roles, from managing and operating walk-in or community clinics to leading interdisciplinary teams within health systems. The new program will better the lives of patients and communities most in need while providing a pathway for the many nurses interested in advanced education who may not otherwise have the
“Now more than ever, the country needs greater and more equitable access to quality primary care—and highly-skilled nurse practitioners are the key to making that happen,” says Leonard A. Lauder. “The program will ensure that more Americans receive the essential healthcare services that everyone deserves, and I’m so pleased to be working with Penn Nursing on this initiative. I look forward to welcoming our first class of future nurse practitioners this fall. I know their expertise will be matched only by their commitment to serving our communities.”
National Nurse Practitioner Week kicks off on November 7 and ushers in celebrations honoring the work of nurse practitioners (NPs) everywhere while also raising awareness of the career path and of the need for more NPs in healthcare.
Sponsored by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and honored by many healthcare organizations, National Nurse Practitioner Week recognizes the many skills NPs bring to their patient care approach.
According to the AANP, nurse practitioners diagnose and treat health conditions, but also bring in the perspective of disease prevention and health management to patient care. As nurse practitioners look at the whole patient, they are able to identify areas that also might be impacted by a diagnosis or health condition and help patients manage and mitigate any symptoms.
For example, a patient with an inflammatory bowel disease diagnosis might benefit from additional information about the importance of sleep and nutrition. A patient with a family history of certain cancers will benefit from additional guidance around healthy behaviors and additional screening for prevention.
Nurse practitioners must have additional education and training above and beyond their RN status. Nurse practitioners have either a master’s or doctorate degree and have completed additional training in healthcare settings. With this elevated expertise, nurse practitioners are practically and legally able to care for their patients in ways RNs cannot. A nurse practitioner can diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medications, and order and interpret lab and diagnostic testing. They often are involved in research and advocacy as well.
As they move through their careers, nurse practitioners are sought after for their expertise and their experience treating many patients and conditions and practicing under the overall scope of reinforcing prevention and healthy lifestyle behaviors. As all nurses, NPs are especially focused on patient education and helping patients achieve their healthiest lives within the parameters of their health conditions.
The personal connections NPs make with their patients are exceptionally valuable to both. Nurses work closely with patients to understand their daily habits and any socioeconomic influences that could act as barriers in their pursuit of good health. Nurse practitioners are excellent at making connections to specialists when patients need that care and working with other healthcare providers to help ensure the best outcomes.
What is a nurse practitioner (NP) and how is it different from your role as a nurse? According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, an NP is a master’s or doctorate-prepared nurse with the knowledge and clinical competence to practice as a clinician in acute or primary care settings. Becoming an NP is highly rewarding and requires effort, time, money, and managing more licenses and certifications.
So you are comfortable with your role as a bedside nurse, but you feel like you want or need something different. You can hold various nursing positions with a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) if you aren’t interested in pursuing additional education. But, if you want more of a challenge, more responsibility, more independence, and higher education, then becoming a nurse practitioner may be the right pathway for you. Read on to see what it takes to become a successful nurse practitioner.
5 Necessities to Becoming a Successful Nurse Practitioner
1. Registered Nurse Licensure
The first step to becoming a successful NP is to become a successful registered nurse (RN). If you aren’t an RN already, there are options for second-degree BSN programs available. If you are an associate-prepared registered nurse, RN to MSN programs are available for you to earn your MSN and your BSN. If you are a bachelor-prepared RN, there are numerous NP programs online and in-person all over the country.
2. Know Your Specialty
Unlike physician assistant programs, nurse practitioners must decide on what specialty they would like to study before applying to their program. Most nurses will utilize their bedside experience to help decipher which focus they would like to pursue. Although this is not necessarily a requirement of an NP program, it is challenging to acquire advanced knowledge and skills in a field without that specific experience. NPs can decide later on a subspecialty if they choose to go down that path. NP specialties include:
Adult-Gerontology Acute or Primary Care
Family Acute or Primary Care
Neonatal Acute Care
Pediatric Acute or Primary Care
Women’s Health Acute or Primary Care
3. Consider Interests as Subspecialties
NPs can decide later on a subspecialty if they wish to focus on an even more niche area of care. Not all NPs subspecialize, but if a nurse has experience or interest in a subspecialty and they would like to practice as an advanced practice provider in that field, they can do so after graduation. Additionally, NPs can get post-graduate certifications to further their subspecialty education. Subspecialties include, but are not limited to:
NPs have varying levels of independence depending on their state of practice. In some states, overseeing physicians need to approve all decisions made by an NP. This style of collaboration is suitable for new graduates, but it can become tedious for more experienced NPs. In other states, NPs have what’s called Full Practice Authority (FPA) to order and prescribe as they see fit; this type of autonomy is excellent for more experienced NPs. However, it is still essential to know when to consult additional providers due to patient complexity. Regardless of their scope, NPs need to be effective autonomous providers with an increased level of accountability. It is crucial that an NP doesn’t rely solely on their overseeing physician to correct any potential mistakes made.
5. Clinical Decision-Making
NPs have a more in-depth scope of clinical decision-making than their RN counterparts. Not only do NPs need the knowledge base to make clinical decisions, but they also need the confidence to make those decisions. The increased responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
Managing acute, chronic, and preventative care
Counseling, planning/implementing treatment plans and palliative care
Understanding and utilizing appropriate diagnostic and screening protocols
Distinguishing between normal and abnormal findings
Prescribing medications within the state’s scope of practice
Delivering patient-centered, culturally competent care and empathetic relationships with parents and caregivers
As you can see, there is a significant difference in the role of a nurse and a nurse practitioner. Deciding whether or not you have what it takes to leap into a more autonomous medical role isn’t a decision to take lightly. It is important to remember that to be a successful nurse practitioner, you must be a successful nurse first. There is more required to being a good nurse or NP than simply having the foundational knowledge. Nurses must have the personal qualities and characteristics that are necessary for creating a career as a competent nurse practitioner.
The week of November 8-14 honors nurse practitioners with National Nurse Practitioner Week. Nurses who achieve this professional status have plentiful and rewarding career opportunities to explore. As a nurse practitioner (NP), nurses have the flexibility and options to focus their practice in specialties that are most meaningful to them.
As nursing students consider their career paths, becoming a nurse practitioner is often a goal for nurses who want a degree of autonomy and who might enjoy the challenges of making many decisions in treating patients.
Because becoming an NP requires at least a master’s of science in nursing and a doctorate in nursing is encouraged, becoming an NP takes dedication to earning advanced degrees. If you’re considering becoming an NP, you don’t need to follow a direct educational path but you do need a commitment to earning those degrees.
Working as a registered nurse while you continue your studies to an NP gives you opportunities to find the niche of nursing that most appeals to you. Throughout your different roles, whether those are your early clinicals as a student or your first jobs after you graduate with a bachelor’s degree and assume a registered nurse (RN) role, you’ll explore many different specialties to find a good fit. Planning out your professional path helps you take steps toward each goal.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners is a national organization that supports NPs ability to practice independently. In some states, NPs are able to practice entirely independently in a solo practice if they choose. Other states require NPs to work under the oversight of a physician. NPs and physicians are able to diagnose patients and treat them as they consider the patient’s health and additional factors that may impact their treatment plans. Like a physician, nurse practitioners’ required education and advanced training allow them to become licensed to prescribe medications to patients, something RNs aren’t licensed to do.
Within a NP path, nurses can choose a specialty that appeals to them. Many NPs become family practitioners and treat all ages and conditions. Others may specialize in the mental health and psychiatric specialties and others may choose to focus more on a specific age group (older adults or pediatrics). As you become more experienced in your career, you’ll develop important relationships with your patients, many of whom you’ll treat over a long time.
This week, celebrate your accomplishments and the changes you have made in the lives of your patients.
Operating with the highest level of autonomy, nurse practitioners are lifelines for many patients.
This week’s designation as National Nurse Practitioner Week (November 10-16) is an excellent time to examine the roles nurse practitioners (NPs) play in the nation’s healthcare system.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners is a leading professional organization for NPs and also leads advocacy for issues relating to NPs. A nurse practitioner has achieved an educational path that brings them to Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (ARPN) designation. That gives them essential nursing knowledge and combines it with the ability to use it in a more comprehensive manner than a registered nurse (the first step to becoming an NP).
One of the biggest challenges facing NPs today is achieving full-practice authority (FPA) in all states. Because NPs have wide-ranging responsibilities that include examining and treating patients, diagnosing illness, and prescribing medications, they often work at the level of a physician. In some states, a nurse practitioner is not mandated to work under the supervision of a physician or required to have a physician sign off on some of their treatments. In states that don’t recognize the full practice authority of an NP, that additional layer of physician sign-off is required.
A nurse practitioner is able to “hang a shingle” and operate as a solo practice in any location. Many NPs choose to do so in remote areas where practicing physicians are hard to find or in urban areas where transportation to a medical office is a barrier to care. They are a vital cog in the healthcare wheel. They often assume many of the responsibilities of a primary care physician, developing relationships and providing preventive and long-term care. They see and treat patients with chronic diseases like asthma or diabetes and work in conjunction with a specialized care team as well.
If upping your career to a nurse practitioner level interests you, there are steps to get started. NPs require a master’s in nursing (with a focus on the population you intend to serve) and achieving a PhD in nursing is desirable for this role. After becoming a registered nurse, completing the BSN and MSN, you’ll need to earn your state-level advanced practice nursing license.
While NP authority is determined on the state level, there is progress toward achieving a national model. For now, some states participate in the APRN Contract, which allows a nurse holding an APRN license to essentially have authority to practice in several states. Not all states are part of the ARPN, so you’ll need to check to see where your own practice location, or intended location, fits in.
Career outlooks for NPs are stable. As the number of family practice physicians decline and the population increases, NPs are there to help patients on a high level. They are also able to work with communities that may not have had reliable medical care in years. The freedom to develop deep and lasting multigenerational relationships with patients and families is a routinely cited reason for working in this busy role.
If you’re an NP, National Nurse Practitioner Week is a good reminder to let people know of the training and skill set required of nurses in this area of nursing. And it’s a good time to give yourself a pat on the back for all you do.