The role of nurse practitioners in advancing global health

Individuals from all over the world face difficulties accessing quality healthcare for different reasons. Political factors, economic disparities, shortages of medical professionals, transportation issues, high medical costs, lack of health insurance and other factors prevent patients globally from receiving quality care.

Fortunately, nurse practitioners (NPs) can help improve healthcare access for people worldwide. As an NP, having a global health perspective means understanding that health issues cut across national borders. It’s considering cultural differences, having respect towards diverse populations and determining how to work together to promote health equity.

Read on to learn more about how nurse practitioners contribute to global health.

The role of nurse practitioners in global health

Nurse practitioners have the training and expertise required to provide quality care. Here’s a look at their distinctive role in global healthcare:

Delivering safe and effective care

Nurse practitioners have the skills and experience to ensure patients receive safe and effective care. According to AANP, NPs provide care similar to their physician colleagues. Research shows that patients under the care of nurse practitioners had higher patient satisfaction, fewer hospitalizations and fewer readmissions than those under a physician’s care.

Patients under the care of nurse practitioners also benefit from health education on disease prevention. This allows patients to make better health choices to support their health.

Providing accessible healthcare in remote areas

There’s a shortage of physicians in primary and specialty care. That’s where NPs come in to fill that gap, especially in remote areas. Some people in rural settings avoid hospitals until they are very sick, which results in poor health outcomes and high healthcare costs.

Nurse practitioners can help alleviate this problem by opening clinics and providing healthcare services in remote areas. Opening retail-based care clinics also makes healthcare accessible and affordable for individuals looking for primary care services. NPs running their own practices improve patients’ quality of life and health outcomes.

Improving the cost-effectiveness of health services

High medical costs prevent most people from receiving quality healthcare. Research reveals that nurse practitioners can provide improved or equivalent medical care at a lower cost than physicians.

Additionally, the research showed that nurse practitioners working under physicians could reduce patient visits by one-third. Nurse practitioners can help reduce healthcare costs by ensuring increased access to healthcare services for people who can’t afford a physician’s services.

NPs also work with patients to reduce hospitalizations by providing increased access to healthcare in outpatient settings. They may work with patients suffering from chronic illness to help improve their health outcomes and build a relationship built on trust. Nurse practitioners’ focus on health promotion helps reduce healthcare costs for the general population.

Educating and counseling patients

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) play a crucial role in global health by empowering patients through quality education and counseling. Some patients don’t understand how to navigate the complex healthcare system, while others lack the knowledge on when to seek preventative services like vaccinations.

FNPs act as patient guides by providing holistic care, which involves recognizing education opportunities on issues their patients may face over time. These professionals go through specialized training such as a post-master’s FNP online program that equips them with patient education, nursing and holistic care knowledge. Enrolling in an FNP program through an accredited university such as Rockhurst University gives students the scientific and theoretical knowledge that will ensure they implement the best quality of care as FNPs, along with providing hands-on experience through clinical placements.

Nurse practitioners who work in hospital settings begin providing patient education when someone arrives at the hospital and continues until the patient is discharged. They instruct patients on what to do if a problem occurs, how to spot a warning sign, the person to contact when they have questions, and some self-care steps to take, such as how to bathe a baby, inject insulin and more.

Nurses who provide patient education help to mitigate any misinformation. Patients are likely to run to social media and other sites to self-diagnose. Unfortunately, most websites are not vetted, and people run the risk of being misinformed about a health condition. Nurse practitioners can help alleviate this problem by delivering the correct information.

Participating in healthcare policy making

Nurse practitioners’ scope of practice isn’t limited to individual patients. It also extends to the entire population. NPs also act as holistic healthcare providers and are crucial in influencing global health policies.

Their educational background and clinical expertise allow them to assess the health needs of populations worldwide and implement policies that strive to provide equity of care.

Additionally, nursing practitioners are at the forefront of healthcare and understand the unique needs of patients. They can use their experiences to determine how different factors affect patients. NPs can communicate previous limitations and current successes to help create better healthcare policies.

Nurse practitioners can also shape healthcare policy by proposing new policies depending on current needs. Meeting with policymakers and ensuring their clinical insights are considered in the policy proposals can also influence the creation of better policies.

Advocating for mental health and wellness

One of the barriers to global healthcare access is the stigma associated with mental illness. Most people fear seeking treatment because of a previous encounter with a biased healthcare professional. Some people also would rather avoid seeking help to address their mental health challenges than accept they have a condition such as bipolar disorder or anxiety due to the social stigma attached to such conditions.

These issues can make seeking mental health care difficult for these patients. That’s where NPs come in. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners go through advanced training to help them provide compassionate care when dealing with mental health. They provide a holistic therapeutic approach to improve a patient’s functioning.

Patients prefer working with empathetic and compassionate caregivers, and NPs are uniquely positioned to provide this approach when dealing with mental health conditions.

Final thoughts 

Nurse practitioners play a crucial role in global health by ensuring access to healthcare services at an affordable cost, providing individualized treatment even when dealing with the masses, and participating in the creation of better healthcare policies. Pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner prepares you to provide quality care and improve patient outcomes on a national and global level.

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