GILCHRIST

GILCHRIST

National Nurse Practitioner Week

November 12, 2021, Caregiving, Elder Medical Care, End-of-life doula, Gilchrist, Hospice

November 7 marks the beginning of National Nurse Practitioner Week. Every day, Gilchrist’s dedicated nurse practitioners go the extra mile, making a difference for those who depend on them. They visit patients wherever they are, whether in homes, nursing facilities or hospitals. They are experts in their field and fill a critical need in our community. Some people may not know what nurse practitioners do, so in honor of Nurse Practitioner Week, we asked Gilchrist nurse practitioner Jennifer Castello to explain how these professionals make a difference for the patients Gilchrist serves.

What do nurse practitioners do at Gilchrist? 

We are trained to assess, diagnose, order and interpret medical tests, prescribe medications, and collaborate in the care of patients. Nurse practitioners work in many different types of settings. For the Elder Medical Care Program, we provide primary care in the home or in residential care centers. Gilchrist nurse practitioners also provide palliative care in residential community centers and in hospitals. We collaborate with the medical team to provide optimal care to all of our patients. 

Some of our specific duties are:

  • Recording patient medical histories and performing physical exams
  • Administering primary and emergency care to patients
  • Creating patient treatment plans, prescribing medications and monitoring patient progress
  • Ordering and administering diagnostic tests
  • Educating patients about the benefits of healthy nutritional and exercise choices for disease prevention
  • Providing mental health support
  • Educating patients about their disease and treatment options and helping them identify their goals of care

Why is a nurse practitioner such an important role?

Nurse practitioners play an important role in prevention of disease and health promotion across the lifespan. They are uniquely positioned to influence patient behavior by developing strong, trusting, long-term relationships.

What is the difference between a nurse practitioner and a physician?  

Both physicians and nurse practitioners provide patient care and prescribe medications. However, they differ in their education, level of training and autonomy. One difference is that physicians earn an MD while nurse practitioners typically earn a master’s or doctor’s degree with a nurse practitioner specialty. In addition, physicians complete a residency while nurse practitioners complete a practicum. Finally, in many states, nurse practitioners do not have full practice authority and require physician oversight. Maryland is one of the states where nurse practitioners have a great deal of autonomy and physician oversight is not required. However, Gilchrist practitioners collaborate closely with physicians to optimize care delivery. 

What are nurse practitioners’ goals in working with patients who have chronic or serious illness?

The goals of treating patients with chronic illness are to minimize symptoms, improve quality of life and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations. Nurse practitioners also have advance care planning discussions with patients and families. This is a process that supports adults at any age or stage of health in understanding and sharing their personal values, life goals and preferences regarding future medical care and treatment. 

What kinds of conditions do nurse practitioners typically treat? 

Nurse practitioners can treat acute (short-term) illnesses such as upper respiratory infections, ear infections, rashes and urinary tract infections. They can also specialize in and manage chronic illnesses such as allergies, diabetes, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and more.

How long do your visits with patients typically last? 

On average, we spend 30 minutes to an hour with each patient per visit.

In what settings do nurse practitioners provide care? 

Nurse practitioners work in many different settings. Some of these include nursing homes, urgent care, primary care, home care, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, clinics and hospitals.

Can you provide examples of the impact nurse practitioners have on patients? 

In general, nurse practitioners are proven to decrease patient hospitalizations, emergency room visits and lengths of stay at various facilities. Our patients are grateful for the care our team of nurse practitioners provide. A patient recently said to me that “she has never had a provider be so detailed and take the time to explain her condition and options to her.”

Which Gilchrist services have nurse practitioners?

Nurse practitioners are part of Gilchrist’s Elder Medical Care team and Integrative & Palliative Medicine team.

To learn more about Gilchrist’s Elder Medical Care services, visit gilchristcares.org/elder-medical-care. To support our work, visit gilchristcares.org/give.

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