Nurse Practitioners & Preventative Health: A Natural Ally

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are hardwired advocates of preventative health and wellness strategies. A benefit of their holistic nursing training that focuses on wellness, rather than acute care, is that they are deftly able to educate patients about preventative strategies, including lifestyle modifications and vaccinations. When APCO Insight spoke to NPs at the AANP National Conference in San Antonio, we found that more than half believe prevention and wellness plays a strong role in their day-to-day practice, attesting to the fact that when it comes to preventative health and wellness, NPs are a natural ally.

Prevention and wellness is at the core of what NPs do

NPs weave prevention and wellness into every exam they give, and they are careful to take their time to get a complete patient history. NPs take pride as they are able to focus on more than just the acute complaint that brought a patient in, and ask thoughtful questions to make sure that all of a patient’s needs are being met and cared for.

“Taking the opportunity to introduce preventative when [a patient] comes in – even if they come in for something else…asking, ‘by the way when was the last time you had a Pap smear test?’” (Family Practice NP)

Prevention is equal parts screening, education and intervention

NPs go beyond just performing routine screenings by looking to the future of a patient’s health. Not only can NPs help patients manage their current conditions, but they can also prevent future conditions, by giving appropriate educational information and encouraging regular follow-up visits to monitor progress and modify wellness plans. More importantly, NPs see the value in trying to stop things before they start: as said by one NP we spoke with, “I’d rather prevent something than treat it.”

“We can get at [hypertension, heart disease, diabetes] from a prevention standpoint by teaching them how to eat healthy, how to engage in regular exercise, smoking cessation and other healthy habits.” (Family Practice NP)

Patient education is at the center of prevention and wellness

NPs excel at creating connections with patients to share tailored information aimed at improving health and wellness. NPs rely on their nursing training to passively receive patient cues and offer guidance as it becomes specifically-relevant to each patient. NPs are also in tune to how patients best receive information and integrate those preferences into their practice. For example, NPs notice that many gravitate towards physical visit summaries and opt for sharing hand-written notes on diagnoses and treatments plans, including use of OTC medicines, as a preferred educational resources.

“Depending on if they have access to the internet I will hand them physical [paper] education information as well as speaking to them in their visit.” (Endocrinologist NP)

Vaccinations are an essential component of prevention and wellness strategies

NPs are strong advocates for vaccinations across the life-cycle—not only do they consider vaccines important, but nearly all NPs we talked to say they almost always make a strong recommendation for vaccinations.

NPs are a strong, natural supporter of prevention and wellness strategies, and it positively differentiates NPs from other health care practitioners. Barriers in the current medical model present challenges that disrupt their effectiveness, but NPs persevere – instead focusing more on their patient relationships to inspire change. Advocates for prevention and wellness strategies, especially vaccines, will find willing partners with NPs. As a practice group that is on the front lines of primary care, we should think of them as a natural ally in preventative health and wellness delivery.

Note about methodology:

The above results are based upon qualitative research conducted by APCO Insight among Nurse Practitioners on June 24, 2016 at the AANP National Conference.

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