Advancing the Nursing Practice

mcquillian_thumbby Katherine McQuillan, Doctorate of Nursing Practice and APNP at The Platteville Clinic at Southwest Health

There are many roles that make up the healthcare team. Each and every role is unique, valuable, and essential to an effective team. Nurse practitioners are among the top-notch practitioners on the healthcare team at Southwest Health, and as individuals we each bring a something unique to the practice.

For me, becoming a nurse practitioner was not just about advancing my nursing career, it was about the opportunity to treat patients as a whole person. As a nurse, you are sometimes limited in what you can do for a patient. As a nurse practitioner, I am able to take time to understand my patients’ situations and develop a wellness plan with them. Throughout my nursing career I’ve had the privilege of being a part of people’s lives from birth to end of life and virtually every stage in between.

Here’s a look at what nurse practitioners do as well as answers to common questions regarding the profession.

What is a nurse practitioner?

According to the American College of Nurse Practitioners, a nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse (RN) with advanced training in diagnosing and treating illness. NPs can prescribe medications, treat illness, and administer physical exams. They practice in a variety of settings including primary care/family medicine, emergency care, specialty care – like neurology and psychology, and more. Most importantly, they treat patients across their life spans and people from all walks of life.

In addition to a four year program to become a professional, registered nurse practitioners complete a specialized graduate program. Graduate programs are typically three years long and provide advanced clinical training. Nurse practitioner programs are masters or doctoral level education programs. Until recently, a master’s degree has been the typical entry level degree for nurse practitioners. Many NPs now have a doctorate degree in nursing practice (DNP) as well.

Nurse practitioners are also board certified by a national organization and must earn continuing education credits and satisfy other professional development measures to maintain their license to practice. To be recognized as expert health care providers and ensure the highest quality of care, NPs undergo rigorous national certification, periodic peer review, clinical outcome evaluations, and adhere to a code for ethical practices. Self-directed continued learning and professional development is also essential to maintaining clinical competency (American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 2015).

What makes care provided by a nurse practitioner special?

When you receive care from the NPs at Southwest Health, you can expect high quality care resulting from experience, research, and genuine caring. Here are additional strengths you can expect from our NPs:

  • NP reliability – NPs are more than just health care providers; they are mentors, educators, researchers, and administrators. Their involvement in professional organizations and participation in health policy activities at the local, state, national, and international levels helps to advance the role of the NP and ensure that professional standards are maintained. Many of our own NPs are community educators, college instructors, and volunteers in addition to being mothers, wives, little league coaches, and local healthcare advocates.
  • Lower healthcare costs – By providing high-quality care and counselling, NPs can lower the cost of health care for patients. For example, patients who see NPs as their primary care provider often have fewer emergency room visits, shorter hospital stays and lower medication costs. It’s all part of establishing routine care with a trusted professional.
  • Patient satisfaction – With almost 916 million visits made to NPs each year in the US, patients report an extremely high level of satisfaction with the care they receive. NPs are often able to spend a little more time with each patient, and as nurses by profession, their nurturing spirit really shows.
  • Primary care shortage solution – By offering high-quality, cost-effective, patient-centered health care, NPs are an important part of the solution to the primary care shortage facing America today. (AANP, 2015).

While the role of the NP is just one of the many members it takes to provide you and your families with excellent healthcare, it is nonetheless a vital role. Together, the healthcare team at Southwest health collaborates to provide quality, personalized care.

Who are the nurse practitioners at Southwest Health?


Katherine (Kayte) McQuillan, Doctorate of Nursing Practice, APNP
Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner
Platteville Clinic (608) 348-4330

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