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The NP Difference

As an NP, I am often asked what I do differently from my
physician colleagues and the answer is simple.  NPs consider every facet of the person's illness and how this impacts their lives, the lives of their families, and their futures. For instance, when prescribing a medication, NPs consider whether it is affordable, how practical it is to take at once a day or four times a day and how any side effects might impact your ability to drive safely, function at work, or take care of your children. The core philosophy of NP care has always been individualized care. NPs make prevention, wellness, and patient education priorities while engaging the patient as a partner in their own care. This personalized focus allows the patient to direct their regimen by ensuring they are able to make well informed choices.

Unfortunately, this partnership is sadly lacking in conventional medical care. This is mainly due to the current medical philosophy which views patients in terms of their illness, for the sole purpose of treatment. This approach leads to thinking of human beings as, “The gallbladder in room 5” or “The migraine in bed 8,” when the patient is so much more than this one health problem.  Under our current medical system such factors are generally ignored and lead to lost opportunities for disease prevention, often with a further decline in health. 

A managed healthcare society only adds fuel to the fire. The progressively shorter 5-15 minute appointment times don’t begin to address a mother’s concerns over her baby’s poor developmental progress nor a senior’s need to manage high cholesterol and chest pain along with the fears of progressive memory loss. Ironically, while technology leads us to such greater efficiency, Americans are the sickest they have ever been. We live in an age where 1 child in 100 will have an autistic spectrum disorder and 1 in 2 men or 1 in 3 women will develop an invasive cancer.  Yet healthcare providers are not permitted the necessary time to screen for them, making patient education all the more critical.  

Most are surprised to learn that the word “Doctor” as it is derived from Latin, does not actually mean healer, although its practice (if done well) will lead to healing.  Instead, physician means "Teacher,” as in “One who gives people the knowledge they need to facilitate their own healing process and achieve a state of well being.” Currently, allopathic medicine does not allow it's practitioners to bear any resemblance to this definition, although integrative medicine surely does.  It is a healing art that engages in listening, asking, and teaching so that the patient may find wellness AND quality of life.  This is a medicine in which both NPs and physicians can find common ground and perhaps then, the NP difference would not be nearly as profound.

April Ward-Hauge MS, NP, BCIM