A family nurse practitioner is seen as a general health nurse practitioner, not so much a specialty.
FNPs are capable of dealing with a wide variety of health conditions that plague the population. These include common health ailments.
Hypertension Management- Hypertension plagues the population. According to the CDC, the percentage of adults aged 20 and over with hypertension (measured high blood pressure and/or taking antihypertensive medication) is 33.5%. This is greater than a third of the population over 20 years of age. With hypertension plaguing society, it takes a host of healthcare professional practitioners, including doctors and nurse practitioners to help manage this. FNPs can attempt to teach the patient lifestyle adjustments through diet (such as the DASH diet) and daily exercise. If these are not enough to lower the blood pressure to a tolerable range or if the patient is unwilling to make these changes, then the FNP may handle it through pharmacology. These include blood pressure medications such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, etc.
Diabetes Management- Diabetes is another ailment that plagues society today. According to the CDC, more than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes. As of 2015, 30.3 million Americans – 9.4 percent of the U.S. population –have diabetes. Another 84.1 million have prediabetes, a condition that if not treated often leads to type 2 diabetes within five years. Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2015. With these shocking statistics, professional diabetes management is needed now more than ever. Nurse practitioners are more than capable of prescribing treatment and teaching patients about diabetes management. To manage type 1 diabetes, a nurse practitioner will prescribe various types of insulin. To manage type 2 diabetes, normally oral hypoglycemic medications, such as metformin, are prescribed.
Cholesterol Management- FNPs are more than capable to handle abnormal lab values a patient may have, such as high cholesterol. An FNP will usually first teach the patient about lifestyle adjustments such as decreasing dietary cholesterol and getting proper exercise. If these do not work, pharmacological treatment may be necessary to keep cholesterol at healthy levels.
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies- As an extension of the last point, nurse practitioners should be more than capable of handling vitamin and mineral deficiencies that a patient may have, such as low vitamin D levels, low iron levels, etc.
Colds, Sore Throat, Fever- An FNP should be able to handle simple medical ailments, such as colds, a sore throat, and uncomplicated fevers. If of viral origin, rest, fluids, and painkillers may be prescribed. If of bacterial origins, antibiotics will be prescribed.
Weight Management- FNPs can definitely aid in weight loss for patients who may want this. This may be through lifestyle changes, pharmaological treatment, or a combination of both. Many FNPs work in weight loss clinics.
General Check-ups- With a shortage of primary care physicians across the country, FNPs are needed now more than ever to fill in the gap in primary care. FNPs are well-trained and educated to see patients for annual physicals. They can order tests, read results, and do referrals, if needed.
Mental Health Treatment- Even though an FNP is not specialized in mental health as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is, psychiatric treatment is still within the scope of practice for an FNP. For simple cases such as mild depression, an FNP may feel no need to refer treatment and may handle it him or herself. For complicated mental health conditions, an FNP usually will feel more comfortable referring the patient to a mental health specialist.
FNPs are more than capable of handling common and simple medical cases all by themselves. For more complex conditions that an FNP doesn't feel comfortable or knowledgeable handling should be referred to a specialist with more knowledge and training. Common conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, FNPs should be comfortable handling. Besides these, conditions such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Addison's disease, Cushing's disease can also be handled by an FNP. Everything correlates with the FNP's knowledge base and specialty areas. An FNP, facing a patient with unknown skin rashes, should refer the patient to see a dermatologist.
FNPs should equip themselves with the knowledge to do thorough physical examinations and handle common medical issues, such as hypertension, diabetes, high choleserol, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
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