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Nurse Practitioners

History

Nurse practitioners first appeared on the scene following World War II, partially in response to the acute shortage of physicians. In addition, there was an influx of former corpsmen who hoped to utilize their military training and experience to fill the void of medical practitioners.

Even prior to the establishment of the first training program for nurse practitioners at Duke University in 1965, nurses had performed simple but time-consuming tasks formerly regarded as the physician's responsibility, such as taking blood pressures or administering intravenous feedings or medications. Those involved in the first nurse practitioner training program at Duke believed that nurse practitioners could perform many of the time-consuming tasks then restricted to physicians, thus freeing up the physicians to handle more complex cases.

The nurse practitioner has also fulfilled a need to focus more on health maintenance and illness prevention. In 1986, a study carried out by the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment found that "within their areas of competence, nurse practitioners provide care whose quality is equivalent to that of care provided by physicians." In preventive care and communication with patients, nurse practitioners were found to outperform doctors. Nurse practitioners are assuming an increasingly important role in the health care industry.

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