While nurse practitioners receive formal training before they are ever allowed to practice on real patients, they are also provided clinical guidelines to learn, understand and follow on a regular basis once they are in practice. These guidelines are developed by health experts and distributed as best practices for dealing with a variety of conditions that nurse practitioners will find themselves facing.
Unlike general nurses, nurse practitioners already bring to the table a four-year bachelor’s degree as well as a master’s degree focused on advanced nursing theory and methods. Within this advanced training, nurse practitioners can focus in a particular field of medical care ranging from family medicine to neonatal practice.
Since not all state requires a nurse practitioner to work under the direct supervision of a medical doctor, clinical practice guidelines are used to regulation and define parameters or what nurse practitioners can do, how treatment should be provided, and what requirements need to be met in a treatment.
Clinical guidelines define how nurse practitioners should address and deal with specific health conditions they may end up reviewing in practice. Five common guidelines include:
•Management of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection – This type of guideline focuses on proper identification, assessment and initial response to an upper respiratory breathing problem typically caused by a reaction to a virus. Conditions covered can range from bronchitis to pneumonia. Assessment is a major portion of the role a nurse practitioner plays under this clinical guideline, helping doctors treat patients faster and filtering out easy cases that just need more fluids and decongestants.
•Management of Pregnancy – Another common role a nurse practitioner may find herself in is working with a pregnant mother managing prenatal care and examinations. This clinical guideline is quite extensive and will cover treatment ranging from educating the patient to routine visit exams to screening for multiple conditions that could pose risks for both the mother and the unborn child.
•Long-Term Care – Only recently established as an area needing a guideline for clinical practice, long-term care frequently sees the involvement of nurse practitioners not only in assessment, but also in chronic or periodic treatment of disabled patients. As a result, this is another area that is now following standardized treatment protocols through clinical guidelines for all practitioners.
•Pediatrics – Nurse practitioners see frequent work helping in medical care for children and related condition assessment. As a result, there is a wide array of guidelines published and used regularly by nurses in going about their jobs with children patients. These guidelines can include topics ranging from bronchial infections to infant care to immunization protocols. Because nurse practitioners see just about every condition that affect a child, particularly infants, the pediatric guidelines that need to reference are many.
•Muscoloskeletal Injuries – Finally, the last but not least of guidelines cover how to deal with trauma to muscle tissue as well as bone. Damaging injuries that cause tears, lacerations and breaks all need to be treated with a particular protocol to stabilize the injury, advance healing and avoid crippling scars or debilitation. As a result, nurse practitioners have to insure both the immediate treatment and subsequent approach for the patient are up to par. In most cases, what comes into the emergency room can be fairly traumatic, caused by anything from a car accident to a lawnmower mishap. Guidelines provide a standardized approach to treatment, irrespective of the injury cause or type.
Where classrooms and theory covered the conceptual training of nurse practitioners, clinical guidelines address the actual practical application of nursing in patient treatment situations. This approach, which is systemic in the medical industry and system, ensures standards are followed in all cases of a specific health condition. It also provides a benchmark to measure the actual treatment when it does not follow required procedures.