The 50th Anniversary of the Nurse Practitioner Profession: Reflections

My husband likes to remind me frequently that Thomas Jefferson was just 33 years old when he drafted the Declaration of Independence. While his point in bringing up this piece of historical trivia is to inspire me, it typically leaves me with a profound sense of underachievement. Today, as I read an article looking back on the nurse practitioner profession including quotes from leaders in the NP community, I couldn’t help but feel that these leaders’ enthusiasm for nursing carried similarities to Jefferson’s leadership of our country.

This year, the nurse practitioner profession turned 50. While 1965 was some time ago, the NP role is very new and working to establish it’s place in healthcare. As a nurse practitioner, it is exciting to be a part of this movement and help make a mark for future NPs. As I read the article 50 Years of NP Excellence (it’s a must-read, check it out here) in last month’s The Nurse Practitioner journal, I couldn’t help but get even more hyped up about my career path.

The article is a look back on the nurse practitioner profession gathering thoughts on the past and present from key leaders in the NP community including founder Dr. Loretta Ford. In the midst of the Vietnam war, civil rights issues, and physicians increasingly choosing specialty practice, Ford saw an opportunity. Facing pushback from nursing organizations, she countered resistance with enthusiasm ultimately creating the first nurse practitioner program.

AANP founder Dr. Jan Towers also recalls the fight to establish the nurse practitioner role with state boards of nursing. She calls early NPs “mavericks” as they cared for underserved populations, often overlooked by the traditional medical community. As I read 50 Years of NP Excellence, I was genuinely excited by how far the profession has come in just 5o years. What will we see in the future?

As nurse practitioners and NP students, I believe we will see states move increasingly toward allowing nurse practitioners to practice without physician oversight. We will see patients become more familiar with the nurse practitioner role and employers increase their NP staffing. While the nurse practitioner profession is enjoying tremendous momentum today, we still have challenges to overcome. We need to standardize the way we work across states. We must establish amicable relationships with medical organizations so we can work together rather than in opposition.

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I look forward to seeing how the NP profession changes and grows over the course of my career and in the coming 50 years. What changes do you hope to see?


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