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The Role of the Advanced Practice Nurse in the Management of Rheumatic Disease

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The role of the advanced practice nurse (APN) is to provide preventative care, treatment, and management of acute and chronic illnesses using advanced clinical skills, diagnostic reasoning, and advanced therapeutic interventions. APNs demonstrate a high level of independence and clinical expertise in the management of rheumatic diseases. APNs integrate education, research, management, leadership, and consultation into their clinical roles.

What Does the Advanced Practice Nurse Do?

The APN assesses patients' health status through comprehensive health histories, physical examinations, and interpretation of diagnostic tests. The APN formulates diagnoses and develops a treatment plan to manage health problems, maximize functional abilities, prevent or minimize disabilities, and promote health maintenance. The APN uses a team approach in developing a treatment plan for the patient by collaborating with the patient and other health care professionals.

The APN prescribes, orders, and implements interventions and treatments identified in the treatment plan. APNs prescribe pharmacologic and non pharmacologic interventions, in accordance with state law. APNs provide patient/family education and counseling; and, initiate referrals to other health care providers as needed.

The APN evaluates and documents patient/family progress toward attainment of expected outcomes and provides consultation to other providers to optimize the plan of care and effect system change. The APN provides comprehensive clinical coordination and case management and acts as an advocate for the patient and family within the health care facility, the community, and the legislative arena. The APN may also be involved in program planning, validation and research.

Where Does the Advanced Practice Nurse Work?

The APN provides care in a variety of health care settings including hospital units, ambulatory clinics, managed care practice, private practice, rehabilitation centers, home health agencies, public health centers, and long-term care facilities. APNs may serve as primary care providers, specialty care providers, or consultants.

What Kind of Training Does the Advanced Practice Nurse Have?

APN is an umbrella term given to a registered nurse who has met advanced educational and clinical practice requirements beyond that for basic registered nurse licensure. Rheumatology nurse practitioners are APNs who are clinicians that evaluate and treat patients with rheumatic disease. Most Rheumatology nurse practitioners work collaboratively with a Rheumatologist. Rheumatology clinical nurse specialists are APNs who manage patient care and outcomes on a broader system level through providing education and case management.

APN education occurs at the graduate level (master's or doctorate) and builds upon undergraduate RN education. APN curriculum contains courses in advanced health assessment, physiology, advanced pathophysiology, pharmacology, advanced therapeutics and specialty preparation, as well as research methodology and utilization. Regulated by both state and federal laws, APNs are licensed as registered nurses in the states in which they practice. Some states require APNs to hold additional licenses such as licensing for nurse practitioner with or without prescriptive authority. Most states require APNs to be nationally certified in their specialty area by the APN specialty's professional organization. National APN certification requires graduation from an accredited APN educational program and successful completion of a national certification examination.


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Updated March 2013, ARHP Practice Committee

This patient fact sheet is provided for general education only. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnoses and treatment of a medical or health condition.


© 2013 American College of Rheumatology  Previous | Index | Next