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Dispelling myths about nurse practitioners

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When you go to the “doctor’s office,” it makes sense that you’d expect to see a doctor. But it doesn’t mean that you have to see a doctor. Depending on the reason for your visit, you could meet with a nurse practitioner instead — and that shouldn’t alarm you.

“Nurse practitioners, who also are registered nurses, are formally trained in caring for the sick and have knowledge of how to diagnose, treat, and manage many common ailments,” says Lissy Joseph, BSN, FNP, at Methodist Family Health Center – Kessler Park. She has been practicing nursing for 15 years, which includes two years of formal training to become a certified family nurse practitioner.

Despite her extensive training, Joseph still notices patients sometimes get concerned when they are asked to meet with her. “After graduation, nurse practitioners don’t just run out and start a clinic or just start to work,” she says. “In addition to receiving board certification from a national certification body, nurse practitioners undergo peer review of their skills and, like physicians, are required to continually complete education and training to stay up to date on shifting trends in medicine.”

Here we dispel some common misperceptions about nurse practitioners so that you’ll feel confident in the care they provide.

“They won’t be able to prescribe medicine for me.”

This is a myth. While other types of nurses cannot prescribe medicine for a patient, the rules are different for certified nurse practitioners. “The nurse practitioner is licensed to [write prescriptions], as well as diagnose conditions,” Joseph says.

“Isn’t a nurse practitioner just like a medical assistant?”

Medical assistants play a pivotal role in family health centers. They are there to help with a number of administrative tasks and can assist with some clinical work. However, nurse practitioners have undergone much more training than medical assistants, and they are there to care for patients with more complex medical concerns. “Nurse practitioners are licensed healthcare providers who diagnose and treat patients under the supervision of a physician,” Joseph says.

“I’m not being taken seriously when I’m seen a nurse practitioner instead of a physician.”

That’s not the case! Nurse practitioners are just as committed to helping patients as physicians. In fact, Joseph wanted to get her nurse practitioner certification so she could better treat patients and be an advocate for the people that she serves. As a nurse practitioner, she has an improved sense of professional responsibility and increased autonomy and is able to provide primary and preventive care.

“I need to go see a doctor after I meet with a nurse practitioner.”

Seeing a nurse practitioner counts as a quality visit. You are not required to see a doctor after meeting with a nurse practitioner. Doctors and nurse practitioners work together to help patients. One is not better than the other — they are all there to help you.

Methodist Family Health Center – Kessler Park has extended hours, in partial thanks to Joseph. The office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and there is at least one skilled medical professional there at all times. These convenient hours make setting an appointment easier for many patients because they don’t have to take time off from work or school to receive clinical help. Joseph’s expertise, like those of other nurse practitioners, helps with staffing and makes healthcare more accessible for patients.

Learn more about Methodist Family Health Center – Kessler Park.

About the author

Mia Simon is the public relations coordinator at Methodist Health System. She has social and digital media experience and a passion for community development.