Bridging the Gap Between Doctors & Nurses


Nurse Practitioner Amy Ziegler chats with one of her patients, Joaquin Madrigal of Rio Vista.

Most people know that an R.N. is a registered nurse, but what about the N.P.s that are starting to pop up on employee badges across NorthBay Healthcare’s system?

It stands for Nurse Practitioner, and it means that a nurse has gone on to receive a master’s degree or higher in nursing or a related field as well as advanced clinical training. At more and more hospitals across the country, they serve as a bridge between nurses and the physician, working to streamline the patient experience.

Nurse practitioners have a master’s degree or higher in nursing or a related field as well as advanced clinical training.

In the last four years at NorthBay, the number of N.P.s has more than doubled, says Amy Ziegler, director of Advanced Practice Nursing/Allied Health Professionals. There are N.P.s in oncology, palliative care, urology, neurology, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, orthopedics, diabetes and endocrinology and primary care.

Amy should know. She helped pave the way for many of them, according to Rhonda Martin, assistant vice president of Nursing Operations.

“Amy has established the great benefit of having the extended role in the hospital. That usefulness has become transparent and has been embraced by physicians,” she notes. “Now every department wants one.”

N.P.s can write prescriptions, adjust medications and even discharge a patient, explains Amy. “It can take some of the load off physicians, and make the process move a lot faster. In surgery, for example, I can keep an eye on the patient, monitor their blood pressure, and make adjustments if their heart rate is too high or too low. That allows the surgeon to concentrate on the surgery.”

N.P.s come under the heading of “Advance Practice Nurses,” a title they share with Clinical Nurse Specialists or CNS.

“These are also highly educated nurses who build our programs in the hospitals,” explains Rhonda. “We couldn’t do it without them.”

According to Amy, the CNS figures out the processes and equipment needed, they monitor safety guidelines and make sure teams are on track, educating and updating as needed. “They are key to how NorthBay operates,” says Rhonda.

Advance Practice Nurses also played a key role in helping the organization secure its Magnet status, says Amy.

“We identified gaps in care and created the policies and procedures needed to address those gaps,” she explains. “Magnet brought them into focus, and it was up to us to make sure our house was in order.”

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