Valley Works: Nurse Practitioners

FRESNO, California

Leslie Jones is a Family Nurse Practitioner and sees dozens of patients a day at the Community Health Center, a clinic located in Downtown Fresno.

"Oh, I love it," Jones said. "You either do walk-ins or you do schedule patients, you see follow ups."

She has so many patients to see that the few minutes Jones took out of her day to talk with Action News causes a stir and she has to rush to get back to her work. It is an indication of the vital role nurse practitioners play in today's medical field.

Tammy Maynard with the University of Phoenix told Action News, "A Nurse Practitioner can serve as a patient's primary care provider, which is extremely rewarding to the nurse."

Many Nurses Practitioners are like Jones, she is a registered nurse who worked in a hospital, then went on to get additional training.

Fresno State and the University of Phoenix both offer the master's degree in nursing that is now required. Tammy Maynard, Director of Academic Affairs for Phoenix, says to take it a step further and become a Family Nurse Practitioner even more education is required and here's why.

Maynard explained, "They can work independently they can work as consultants with physicians, which is often the case and they can also prescribe medications."

While Nurse Practitioners are not doctors, they work very closely with them and their expertise can free the doctor up to see more patients. Maynard says the role of Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants will become even more important as the new health care law is implemented.

Maynard said, "We can expect the demand for health care professionals to increase because the access to health care will become more readily available to consumers."

She says now is the time for those considering jobs in health care to get the education and training they need so that they will be ready to jump into jobs that not only pay very well but are considered to be very rewarding.

Jones said, "I don't think I would have stayed in nursing had I not become a Nurse Practitioner and I don't think there is anything more fulfilling than working with people."

According to the Nursing Association, 60 to 80 percent of the primary and preventative care traditionally done by doctors can be handled by a Nurse Practitioner, and at a lower cost.

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