all the nurses employed at Children’s, only about 80 are nurse practitioners
(NP), which means the hospital’s NPs are constantly working to educate
families, other employees and even nursing colleagues about the
clinical role they play in the hospital. “Children’s has NPs in
many inpatient and ambulatory programs, including the Surgical Programs,
the Department of Medicine, Occupational Health, Pediatric Health
Associates and at the Martha Eliot Health Center,” says Ellen
O’Donnell, MSN, PNP, one of six NPs in General Surgery.
“But a lot of people are still unsure what we do.”
NPs are nurses who have gone back to school to get a Nurse Practitioner
degree through a master’s program and have gotten certified. As
part of that education they specialize in pediatric, adult or family
care (PNP, ANP and FNP degrees, respectively. See sidebar for more
nursing degree definitions.). Regardless of the population they
focus on, much of an NP’s work is geared toward teaching patients
about long term health maintenance and disease avoidance.
The difficulty in defining their role stems from the fact that
nurse practitioners’ work often straddles the line between the work
of nurses and physicians. Like nurses, they do health histories,
physical exams, diagnosis, and disease management. Like physicians
they order lab tests, prescribe medications, and counsel and educate
patients and families.
In order to educate others about the difference between NPs, nurses
and physicians, the NPs established the Nurse Practitioner Forum,
a monthly meeting where they talk about developing standards of
care and advancing their practice.
“The Forum has really helped us come together as a group,” says
O’Donnell, who was chair of the Forum for the last two years. “We
had a half-day retreat in June where we talked about putting together
an internal NP Website, precepting NP students and collaborating
with nurses to enhance the care of patients. The NP role varies
throughout the hospital, but we all have the same goal of giving
our patients and their families the best possible care.”
For more on NP Ellen O’Donnell and the many other types of nurses
working at Children’s, visit the online version of the Spring/Summer
issue of Dream.
If you would like a paper copy of the publication, please visit
one of the publications wall bins located throughout the hospital.
Ever wonder what all those letters mean after a nurse’s
name? Here’s a primer.
- Registered Nurses get their nursing degree after attending
a diploma school or two year college and passing a national
licensing exam. RNs observe and assess patients; assist physicians
during treatments and exams; and administer medications.
- Nurses get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing after attending
a four- or five-year college. They take regular core courses
(English, calculus, biology, etc.), but major in nursing. When
they graduate, they have both BSN and RN degrees.
- To get a Master of Science in Nursing, a nurse must first
graduate from a four-year college and then get one-to-three
years of graduate-level schooling. An MSN allows nurses to specialize
in pediatric, adult or family nursing, and practice as clinical
specialists in a wide range of areas.
- Nurse Practitioners are RNs with a BSN and a master’s
degree who complete graduate-level academics. They are certified
by national licensing programs. NPs focus on health maintenance,
disease prevention, can prescribe medications and look at the
entire continuum of care.