As an important member of the health care field, nurse practitioners fill a vital need through treating patients and helping them remain healthy. They are able to treat, diagnosis, and prescribe medication, although in some states, they are required to have supervision by a physician. Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have returned to school with a license in good standing and received an advanced degree and passed a new licensing exam to receive their new certifications.
Nurse practitioner vs. physician assistant: What’s the difference?
Physician assistant is one position that is frequently confused with a nurse practitioner. Like a nurse practitioner, a physician assistant is able to prescribe medications, treat and diagnosis patients, and work with a fair degree of autonomy. The differences between the two largely come in regard to the schooling both positions receive and the degree of independence they are awarded.
A physician assistant will attend a graduate program following an undergraduate degree program to prepare them for work in medicine. While in this program, they can choose to specialize in a variety of areas of medicine such as primary care, surgical care, or pediatrics, although primary care is very popular. Upon finishing their academic program, physician assistants take an intensive exam to qualify for their license. After receiving their certification, the physician assistant is allowed to work in a practice that has a doctor as its head.
On the other hand, a nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has gone back to school for an advanced degree. They are entering their schooling with an average of ten years of experience behind them, along with a previous nursing license and degree. This advanced degree prepares them for the greater responsibilities involved with prescribing medications, making diagnosis, and treating patients in a more direct way. Following the completion of this advanced degree, nurses must take another certification exam to receive the new license. Once they are licensed, the independence granted to the nurse practitioner varies largely based upon the state. Some states will allow the nurse practitioner to make their own diagnosis and prescriptions by themselves; others will require direct or indirect supervision from a physician.
West Virginia: Nurse Practitioners at a glance
Number of NPs: 908
NPs per 100,000: approximately 49
Who governs/grants licenses to NPs: The West Virginia Board of Nursing
Do you have to be an RN? Yes
Do you need a Master of Science in Nursing degree to become a NP? Yes, after 1998
Are there other requirements? For prescriptive authority, they must be a licensed advanced nurse practitioner, a baccalaureate degree holder, successfully complete 45 contact hours of education in pharmacology and clinical management of drug therapy under a program approved by the board, 15 of the hours must be done within two years before the application for permission.
How much does a Nurse Practitioner earn in West Virginia? $95,000 (salaries vary based on the employment setting, geographic location, educational background, and years of experience)
Do NPs need a physician’s supervision for diagnosis and treatment? No
Do NPs need a physician’s supervision to prescribe medication? No
Are there some drug classifications NPs cannot prescribe? If so, provide details:
Nurse practitioners are limited by an exclusionary formula that covers general anesthetics, anticoagulants, antineoplastics, and radiopharmaceuticals. They are also limited to prescribing controlled substances including Schedule III-V with various limitations on the length of supply and refills.
West Virginia Nurse Practitioner Outlook
There have recently been a number of conversations regarding the role of nurse practitioners within primary care. It has been shown that primary care can help keep medical costs down by helping people remain in optimal health and catching illnesses and problems in at the earliest point possible. This will help prevent the need for more in depth care later on. Since there is a national shortage of primary care physicians, there have been some suggestions that a nurse practitioner can help fill in the gaps where people might not have access to a primary care physician. Some within the medical profession object to this line of reasoning, believing that nurse practitioners cannot offer the quality of care that physicians can, since the training is not as intense or as long. Studies have not noted any decrease in medical care, however.
A West Virginia nurse practitioner is offered a high salary compared to the rest of the country, as well as a decent amount of independence to treat patients. As West Virginia does have some rural areas, this most likely helps bring primary care to more of the population. It is likely that in this area, the profession will continue to grow.