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Primary care nursing is an aspect of the nursing profession which focuses on providing primary care to patients. Primary care is the patient's first point of contact with the medical system: when a patient arrives in a doctor's office seeking a physical, attention for a sore throat, or other forms of medical assistance, he or she is interacting with a primary care provider. These nurses can diagnose, treat, and manage a number of conditions independently or in consultation with a doctor, and they can also provide referrals to other medical practitioners if a problem is outside their scope of care. If that sore throat, for example, is caused by a cancer in the trachea, the patient would be referred to an oncologist.
The practice of nursing began rapidly expanding in many regions of the world in the late 20th century as the medical community recognized an acute shortage of primary care providers. Rather than telling patients to go to the doctor, the medical community began encouraging nurses and physician assistants to share the burden of primary care, providing training to these professionals so that they could deliver the same level of care patients had come to expect from a doctor.
People can practice primary care nursing in a wide variety of settings. Some nurses work entirely independently out of their offices or conducting house calls. Others work in a clinic setting, in a partnership with other care providers who can include other nurses and doctors, and they can also work in the hospital. These nurses usually like to establish a long term relationship with their patients, acting as the go-to contact whenever a patient has a medical issue.
Primary care nursing includes routine examinations and medical workups, patient education, development of treatment plans for patients, implementation of treatment, consultation with doctors, and ongoing management of medical conditions. A diabetic, for example, might see this type of nurse for routine medical care as well as monitoring of the diabetes. Many of these nursing professionals are also interested in preventative care which is designed to keep patients out of the medical clinic, which can include education and routine screening to catch medical problems early.
Many nursing schools offer certifications in primary care nursing to people who are interested in this field. Working as a primary care nurse offers an opportunity to establish connections with patients and to experience long-term relationships which allow nursing professionals to follow their patients over time. It also provides very diverse opportunities for patient care which can range from flushing a puncture wound in the office on Monday morning to conducting a sports physical on Friday afternoon.