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Nurse practitioners (NPs) are becoming a more common health partner for many Vermonters.

Choosing a Nurse Practitioner As Your Primary Care Provider

By Brenda Strysko, DNP, CNM, FNP-BCPrint Story | Email Story

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are becoming a more common health partner for many Vermonters.  According to a 2018 report by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Americans make more than 870 million visits to NPs every year.

Still, many patients are not aware that NPs can capably serve as a primary care provider. As clinicians that blend clinical skill in diagnosing and treating health conditions with consideration for disease prevention and health management, NPs provide comprehensive care to patients every day.

Vermont leads the way

Compared to other primary care providers, NPs are the most likely to practice in rural communities like Vermont. According to a 2011 survey from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the five states with the greatest reported percentage of NPs in rural areas are Vermont (56 percent), South Dakota (50 percent), Wyoming (43 percent), Montana (40 percent), and Maine (39 percent). With the challenge of rising health care costs, an aging population, and growing chronic disease, NPs bring strength to the healthcare workforce and provide a viable choice for your healthcare needs.

What kind of training does a nurse practitioner have?

All NPs must complete a master's or doctoral degree program and have advanced clinical training beyond their initial professional registered nurse preparation. This usually requires six to eight years of college preparation. Academic and clinical courses prepare nurses with specialized knowledge and clinical competency to practice in primary care, acute care and long-term health care settings.  Many NPs have years of clinical training and experience.

What can a NP do?

NPs provide a full range of primary, acute and specialty health care services, including:

* Ordering, performing, and interpreting diagnostic tests such as lab work and x-rays.

* Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, infections, and injuries.

* Prescribing medications and other treatments.

* Managing patients' overall care.

* Counseling.

* Educating patients on disease prevention and positive health and lifestyle choices.

What about the quality of care a NP offers?

According to a 2010 publication by the Institute of Medicine, NPs undergo rigorous national certification, periodic peer review and clinical outcome evaluations, adhere to a code for ethical practices, and are recognized as health care providers capable of providing comprehensive, high-quality care. Self-directed continued learning and professional development is also essential to maintaining clinical competency.

Additionally, to promote quality health care and improve clinical outcomes, NPs lead and participate in both professional and lay health care forums, conduct research and apply findings to clinical practice. NPs are licensed in all states and the District of Columbia, and practice under the rules and regulations of the state in which they are licensed.

How are physicians and NPs similar?

Physicians and NPs are held to the same standards of care in terms of quality, safety, and patient outcomes. Like physicians, NPs will consult with their colleagues and/or specialists if a patient needs care that the NP cannot provide or has a problem outside the scope of the NPs experience and training.

Many physicians and NPs, in particular, often take pride in a holistic approach, emphasizing the health and well-being of the whole person and considering the effects that health problems will have on the patient, their loved ones, and their community. With a focus on health promotion, disease prevention, and health education and counseling, NPs can guide patients in making smart health and lifestyle choices, which can lower patients' out-of-pocket costs.

If you are looking for a primary care provider, I encourage you to consider both local NPs and physicians to find the provider who you feel will make the best health care partner for you. I hope that the provider you choose will be the perfect person to help you address your health care needs and reach optimal wellness.

Brenda Strysko, DNP, CNM, FNP-BC, provides care to patients at SVMC Deerfield Valley Campus in Wilmington, Vt.  For more information and to inquire about becoming a patient, call 802-464-5311.

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SVHC Nurse Named Impact Award Honoree

BENNINGTON, Vt. — The group Vermonters Taking Action Against Cancer has named Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center’s registered nurse Rebecca Hewson-Steller as one of its 2020 Impact Award Honorees. SVRCC is a part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Southwestern Vermont Health Care.

"Rebecca truly has a passion for cancer prevention and screening, community health, outreach, collaboration and building partnerships," said Jean Huntington, director of Oncology Services at SVRCC.  "She has a unique set of skills and expertise that benefit our community and the Cancer Center."

Hewson-Steller works as a nurse navigator in the Cancer Center and the Breast Health and Imaging Center. In addition to helping recently diagnosed patients cope with their illness and determine their course of action, Hewson-Steller conducts outreach aimed to promote awareness, prevention and screenings. To people outside the Cancer Center, she is best known for helping to organize outreach events to increase the number of people who get screened for colon, skin, cervical, breast and lung cancers.

"Her events are fun and informative, and really help people realize the importance of taking action to reduce their risk," Huntington said.

Amy Deavitt of the American Cancer Society nominated Hewson-Steller for the award. In the nomination, she wrote, "Rebecca works tirelessly on behalf of the patients she serves by going above and beyond to provide the best in cancer care. … Rebecca has been instrumental in breaking down barriers to increase colorectal and lung cancer screenings. Often, Rebecca is in the field at an event … talking a community member through screening logistics or explaining the polyps on display in the inflatable colon. … She clearly loves her job."

The Impact Awards began approximately 13 years ago. The VTAAC coalition of 650 members nominates honorees annually. The VTAAC Executive Committee reviews them and selects two individuals to honor each year. This year’s other honoree was Amy Pfenning of Community Health Center Rutland. In addition, Justin Pentenrieder has been part of the VTAAC leadership for 10 years and was honored for his numerous contributions in reducing the cancer burden for Vermonters as well as his service to VTAAC.

The goal of VTAAC is to reduce the burden of cancer for all Vermonters. Their 2016-2020 Vermont Cancer Plan outlines the five-year shared goals, objectives, and strategies for reducing the burden of cancer in Vermont with the goals of preventing, detecting, and treating cancer, as well as improving the lives of cancer survivors and their families. For more information, visit

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