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Specialized nurses’ role in treating long-term illnesses

treating long-term illnesses

Healthcare professionals face the ongoing challenge of offering high-quality care to a record-breaking population of aging adults. With healthcare services already in short supply, many providers find themselves brainstorming solutions to caring for more people with a limited number of qualified nurses, medical doctors, nurse practitioners and specialists.

In addition, there are more people than ever with quality health insurance that allows them to afford healthcare for both minor and serious conditions. The advantages of better access to healthcare are that people are living longer lives and can be more proactive in dealing with health issues rather than just ignoring them until there is a more serious problem.

Preventative care is essential

During the COVID-19 crisis, a lot of people were told to skip any doctors’ appointments that were not absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, this practice became a habit and even those that were very good about preventative healthcare visits and screenings became accustomed to skipping them.

Preventive and routine care is important for both patients and doctors. For starters, patients who attend the recommended checkups and participate in the tests and screenings appropriate for their age and condition lead healthier and more productive lives. This is due to the simple fact that these regular visits allow healthcare professionals to catch problems before they become any more serious than they already are. Catching even serious issues early on drastically increases the likelihood of a positive outcome. When caught early, conditions are easier and far less expensive to treat.

More people are living longer with chronic conditions

When people live longer, they are more likely to spend longer periods of time with a mental or physical health condition, including those that are considered chronic. Nurses holding a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and other advanced care health professionals must be skilled in diagnosing and knowing how to create and implement effective treatment plans for those suffering from chronic mental and physical health conditions. Dual-diagnosis patients are increasingly common, and it is important to note that additional mental or physical problems can add to the complexity of treating a chronic condition at any time in a patient’s lifetime.

Specialists can help patients get a higher quality care

There is a lot to know in the world of medicine. Nurse practitioners who train in a specific area of medicine have all the skills to work as a general practice nurse practitioner but they also have trained in an area such as adult gerontology or mental health. These specializations are just a few of those that allow patients to get more specific care with a treatment plan that is best suited to their unique issues and needs. Many nurse practitioners are choosing to specialize in adult-gerontology because there are so many adults, especially senior citizens, who need regular care for chronic conditions.

Mental health nurses are greatly needed as well because there is an extreme shortage of mental health services available to people all over, but particularly in disadvantaged populations and areas including rural and inner-city neighborhoods.

The most common chronic conditions vary with age

Older adults are more likely to have chronic conditions that are directly a result of an aging body and mind. Conditions such as arthritis, back and hip pain, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and memory loss are all found at much higher levels in older adults. Nurse practitioners specializing in adult gerontology have the skills and experience to diagnose these conditions and create treatment plans for adults who have one or more conditions that need regular attention.

Diagnosis and treatment of chronic conditions

Prescribing medications is an important part of many treatment plans, but care must be taken to ensure that patients are tolerating medications well. Regular assessment can alert a nurse practitioner to any issues signaling that an adjustment in dosage is needed or if a patient would be better off trying out another treatment option entirely.

When adults suffer from multiple chronic conditions, it is important that they receive care from a professional who has an exceptional understanding of what medications and treatments work well together and what combinations may be harmful or more likely to have serious side effects.

A nurse practitioner specializing in pediatrics will undoubtedly deal with fewer chronic conditions, and those that they must treat will range widely from uncommon conditions to things like pain associated with rapid growth or hormonal imbalances. Autism is one of the more common chronic conditions, with 1 in 54 adolescents showing some indication of being on the autism spectrum.

Mental health conditions can be very complex no matter the person’s age, but age is definitely a major factor when considering the causes of any mental illness. With adults, mental illness is more likely to be influenced by physical health issues, relationships and financial struggles. In adolescents, self-esteem and perception of self are major contributors to mental health. The challenges of puberty and learning how to navigate personal relationships can lead to depression, anxiety and other disorders that may be overcome with prompt treatment and time.

Chronic mental health conditions are those that do not go away with treatment, but the effects may become less severe if the patient receives a combination of treatments, such as counseling, medication and learning coping mechanisms.

Substance abuse is a challenge that nurse practitioners in all specialties need to learn to diagnose to provide referrals for treatment or to provide some level of care themselves. Even a family nurse practitioner needs to know if someone has suffered from substance abuse in the past or is currently battling the problem.

Nurse practitioners specializing in mental health provide diagnoses and suggested treatment plans for those suffering from substance abuse and any associated mental health conditions. Sometimes, substance abuse is a result of undiagnosed mental illness, while in other cases, the substance abuse itself may lead to mental health conditions that require treatment.

Managing chronic conditions requires collaboration and teamwork

DNP-prepared nurses can diagnose and help recommend courses of treatment, but there are often many other medical professionals involved in formally diagnosing and managing chronic conditions. For example, a DNP-prepared nurse with a specialization in adult gerontology may refer a patient to a cardiac specialist for testing and advice to determine if a patient needs surgery.

DNP-prepared nurses will receive results and recommendations from many specialists for some patients. It must be remembered that no single practice or department has absolutely everything they may need to treat every issue that can arise from a chronic condition.

DNP-educated nurses are often the main overseers of treatment plans and help ensure that all collaborators are informed of any developments or changes in the patient. Having someone help ensure a plan is followed precisely and changed when needed is important because it helps avoid potentially harmful mistakes and misunderstandings. This also prevents misunderstandings that can occur when a patient does not fully understand some aspect of their condition or treatment.

Excellent organization and communication skills are developed over time and a DNP program can help even a highly skilled medical professional improve their skills.

DNP-prepared nurses must be attentive and flexible

Being open to new ideas is an important part of offering high-quality care to patients from all backgrounds. There are new treatments and methods of management for chronic conditions being developed every day.

Continuing education is an important requirement for maintaining nursing credentials and licensing because it helps ensure that nurses stay up to date on current rules, regulations, treatments and methods.

Despite its importance, it is simply not enough to rely on continuing education. Reading medical journals, networking with other advanced care and specialist healthcare professionals, and taking part in research will make it easier to provide the best care to patients with chronic conditions.

Understanding that treatment plans must be altered over the course of a patient’s life may seem like basic knowledge, but it can be very easy to get stuck in the same old way of doing things instead of looking for a better way to treat patients.

Asking the right questions and checking in with patients suffering from chronic conditions on a regular basis is essential. Even just a few minutes of checking in via a telehealth or virtual appointment can make a big difference in the outcome for a patient.

More advanced care nurses and leaders are needed

Nurses who wish to advance their careers and work in more specialized roles often need to earn additional accreditation depending on their career goals. This can mean enrolling in a master’s degree program, which enables nurses to specialize in a particular field of study. However, if nurses who have earned a master’s degree want to advance their careers even further, they can enroll in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

A DNP degree will enable nurses to build on their existing knowledge and skills and open the door to various career opportunities. Nurses can enroll in one of the DNP accelerated programs at a reputable institution such as Wilkes University. This online program can be completed in as little as two years. While clinical practice is required, the number of hours required for graduation depends on the number of clinical hours you have completed during previous programs.

A Doctor of Nursing Practice is considered a terminal degree. DNP-qualified nurses, as nursing leaders, strive to improve the quality of patient care and health outcomes. They are equipped with the necessary skills to interpret available data to make appropriate recommendations to improve healthcare delivery systems

DNPs have increased career opportunities

Earning a DNP opens a variety of positions for you. One good example is teaching. There is a demand for experienced nurses who enjoy teaching others. Nurse educators work at medical facilities, government agencies and community health centers.

College and university-level teaching and research positions are opportunities that many DNP-prepared nurses pursue at some point in their careers. Teaching and research are both good ways to stay involved in the medical field after clinical work or non-traditional working hours start to lose their appeal.

Administrative positions at hospitals and other medical facilities are often held by medical professionals with higher-level degrees and years of experience. With so many talented healthcare professionals set to retire or age out of their positions, now is an excellent time to earn a DNP and gain the experience you need to be a prime candidate for administrative and managerial roles.

Chronic conditions are manageable

Advanced care nurses are necessary to help more people access the advice and care they need to learn to take care of themselves and take charge of their health. Many people lead great lifestyles while living with a chronic condition. The key to a positive outcome involves medical teams and patients working together to develop and follow through with a care plan that is adaptable as conditions change and the patient ages.

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