This month, we celebrate National Nurse Practitioner Week, November 11-17, 2018. NPs are now approximately 248,000 strong with a powerful voice. In recognition of the celebratory week, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) developed a resource guide to help NPs organize messages and activities.1 Suggestions include posting messages on social media, writing letters to stakeholders, community outreach and education regarding the NP role, and public service announcements. The AANP provides templates to use in marketing these activities as well as materials from the 2018 AANP Awareness Campaign to promote the NP role. A dedicated website, WeChooseNPs, offers a variety of resources, including a video in which patients tell their personal stories of experience with NPs.2
More than 50 years after the emergence of the NP role, we must still actively educate and advocate for our practice. But this month is a time to celebrate our successes. NPs across the country are doing amazing work in providing care to underserved and vulnerable populations.
House call NPs
In 2005, Dr. Scharmaine Lawson, DNP, FNP, FAANP, FAAN, a nationally recognized, award-winning NP, was inspired after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, La. She started a house calls service, which has grown into a successful practice and consulting enterprise. I am particularly fond of her creation, Nola the Nurse doll. Nola is a young Black girl who inspires other young persons to aspire toward advanced nursing practice. I own the doll and books featuring Nola and her friends, each of whom represent other health professions and show our diversity. Through Nola and her house calls service, Dr. Lawson is making a sustained contribution to NP advocacy.
The Health Wagon
Another example of NPs “getting the word out” about NP practice is The Health Wagon, a mobile clinic serving Appalachia in Southwest Virginia. The clinic was started in 1980 by an order of medical missionaries and is now staffed by NPs, RNs, and LPNs who serve as the primary care providers. The Health Wagon's mission is to provide access to free healthcare for the medically underserved in the region.
The patient profile characterizes the negative effects of several social determinants of health: the average annual income of 70% of the patients is less than $20,000, and 98% of the patients are uninsured.3 The Health Wagon relies on donations and volunteers, receiving minimal federal or state funding. They have partnered with academic institutions to provide educational training for NP, RN, and medical students.
These are only two examples of NP practice. But the countless “non-famous” NP practices make a significant difference in healthcare delivery to vulnerable and underserved populations. We should not forget about high-end practices that serve populations with access to financial resources, such as cash and insurance; these practices also experience challenges in terms of recognition and full-practice authority.
Although only 1 week is dedicated to celebrating NPs annually, we celebrate ourselves every day by going to our various practice sites and addressing the needs of our patients. John Ruskin, a 19th century English writer, sums up what drives NPs:
“In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: They must be fit for it. They must not do too much of it. And they must have a sense of success in it.” I add, they must let others know.
Jamesetta A. Newland, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP, FAAN