7 Points To Consider When Choosing Between A Nurse Practitioner And A Physician

Nurse practitioners are nurses who have received extra training, and they can perform many of the same services as doctors. If you are choosing a primary care provider, you may be wondering if you should choose a physician or a nurse practitioner. There are several elements to consider when making this choice.

1. Your Location

Different states have different rules when it comes to nurse practitioners, and they can only practice freely in about a third of the states in the United States. If you live in one of those states, your nurse practitioner can prescribe medicines and do many of the same diagnostic tests as doctors. In the rest of the states, these professionals may only be able to prescribe medication or treat patients under a physician's supervision. As a result, it may be more convenient to just see a physician as your primary care provider. This is one of the most important factors in the decision-making process.

2. Coverage

Most insurance policies cover seeing both nurse practitioners and physicians. However, it's important to check your policy to see exactly what is covered. In many cases, your policy may require you to name a primary care provider. Again, depending on the policy, that may need to be a physician, or nurse practitioners may be allowed.

3. Personal Preference

If your state allows nurse practitioners to handle the type of care you need and if your insurance covers visits with them, the choice boils down to personal preference. Some people prefer working with physicians as their primary care providers, since these professionals have more training than nurses. Others may feel like nurses offer more personalized care. Ultimately, it's up to you, and you may want to meet with a few professionals before you make your final choice.

4. Special Needs

Primary care providers are meant to take care of your general health care needs. They are not specialists. That said, if you have a chronic illness or another issue, your primary care provider may help you manage that. In these cases, you may want to work with whomever has more experience with patients in your condition. Depending on the situation, that may be a nurse practitioner or a doctor.

5. Family Access

If you want the same primary care provider for the entire family, you need to look for a primary care physician or a nurse practitioner who sees adults as well as children. Most primary care providers do that, but some may restrict their care to just adults or just children.

Nurse practitioners in particular have eight different areas of specialty. That can include family health, but in some cases, they just focus on adult care, pediatric health, or college students. In other cases, they might specialize in geriatric issues, women's health, mental health, or neonatal care.

6. Potential for Home Visits

You may want to choose the primary care provider who can provide appointments in your home. This can be especially important if you are aging, taking care of young children, or otherwise have trouble getting out of your home. While you may think of home visits by both doctors and nurses as outdated, the practice is making a comeback in some areas, and many analysts think it's going to be getting even more popular.

7. Second Opinions

If you have already seen a nurse practitioner and you want to get a second opinion, you may want to see a physician. Whether they are your primary care provider or just a health care provider you see once in awhile, their thoughts may be invaluable. Of course, you can also opt to go the other direction and get a second opinion from a nurse practitioner after seeing a doctor. It can help to have multiple people who are vested in your care. 

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