More NPs are pursuing residency programs

A growing number of nurse practitioners are pursuing a year of clinical and other training, frequently in primary care, to sharpen their skills, Kaiser Health News reports.

Six things to know:

1. Residency programs give NPs more time to assess patients, allowing them to create a care plan for patients while having physicians available to answer questions. 

The residency program "gives you the space to explore things you're interested in in family practice," nurse practitioner Nichole Mitchell told Kaiser Health News. "There's no way I could have gotten that training without the residency." In 2015, Ms. Mitchell completed a one-year postgraduate residency program at the Community Health Center clinic in Middletown, Conn. Ms. Mitchell, who still works at the same clinic, now mentors NP residents. She developed a specialty in transgender healthcare and treating patients with HIV and hepatitis C.

2. Federally qualified health centers, Veterans Affairs medical centers or private practices and hospital systems can all host residency programs. Many patients are low-income with complex care needs.

3. Proponents of the residencies say they help prepare new NPs deal with the increasing number of patients with complex health issues. Those who don't support the program say the standard training program for NPs already provides sufficient preparation care for these patients, and those who do not complete a residency are well qualified to provide quality patient care. The vast majority of the 23,000 NPs who graduate each year do not complete a residency, detractors argue. 

4. NP residency programs, also called fellowships, are completely voluntary. NP residents work for a fraction of the money they would earn at a regular job, making about half to three-quarters of a normal salary on average. 

5. Over 50 postgraduate primary care residency programs exist across the U.S., said Margaret Flinter, a nurse practitioner who is senior vice president and clinical director of Connecticut-based Community Health Center. The programs include mentored clinical training as well as formal lectures and clinical rotations in other specialties.

6. The Nurse Practitioner Roundtable, a group of professional organizations of which American Association of Nurse Practitioners is a member, offered this assessment to Kaiser Health News: "Forty years of patient outcomes and clinical research demonstrates that nurse practitioners consistently provide high quality, competent care. Additional post-graduate preparation is not required or necessary for entry into practice."

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