National Nurse Practitioners Week in Polk County

Redmond Family Care Nurse Practitioners Janet Ross and Jina Ford joined Commission Chair Jennifer Hulsey for a photo after the county government proclaimed Nov. 11 through Nov. 17 as National Nurse Practitioner Week in Polk County. / Kevin Myrick

This past weekend marked the final celebratory day for a group of medical professionals who do a lot not only to keep their patients happy and healthy, but ensure that there are people to provide care in doctor’s offices and hospitals nationwide.

Polk County Commissioners in past weeks approved of a proclamation marking Nov. 11 through Nov. 17 as National Nurse Practitioner Week locally and joined other local governments across the country in celebrating those like Nurse Practitioners Janet Ross and Jina Ford at Redmond Family Care in Cedartown.

Nurse Practitioners operate under a doctor with their review of how they care for patients when providing prescriptions, but mostly leave the decisions up to a nurse practitioner for day-to-day questions of medical assistance for those coming into doctor’s offices.

Without nurse practitioners, wait times at places like Redmond Family Care Center would be a lot longer.

Ross, who also is the Georgia State Representative for the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, said that there are 10,000 other NP’s in the state of Georgia currently, and some 23,000 that are graduating annually and adding to the ranks of those who provide care.

A nurse practitioner acts as a primary healthcare provider with much of the training and experience of a doctor, but without the medical degree. All 50 states provide a nurse practitioner the right to provide prescriptions to patients under their care, and Georgia specifically also requires a doctor to partner with an NP to do so.

“When I first started, we didn’t have prescriptive authority in the state of Georgia,” Ross said.

The state still has some catching up to do with the rest of the nation, where 22 states and the District of Columbia now allow for nurse practitioners to provide prescriptions without the collaborative agreement with a doctor. In forthcoming state legislative sessions, Mississippi and Florida are looking to be the first in the region to allow nurse practitioners to provide prescriptions without being overseen by a doctor.

In rural communities like Polk County without as many doctors practicing in comparison to the amount in an urban center, nurse practitioners provide a much needed health care services that otherwise might require many miles of travel to achieve.

Ross added that as more doctors also enter specialty practices instead of primary care, nurse practitioners role will continue to grow.

Hence the need for the week raising awareness for their role in health care overall.

After all, they love what doing it.

“What keeps me going is knowing my patient clientele, and knowing my people and being part of the community,” Ross said. “I see them at Kroger or wherever I’m at.”

Ford added that seeing the impacts she makes on people’s lives on a daily basis in helping them with medical care is why she got into nursing, and one of the many reasons why she stays in the job.

“It’s so fulfilling, it’s wonderful,” she said. “I came from a hospital where I didn’t get to have these kinds of relationships. I got the immediate satisfaction of knowing I could fix things faster…. But watching them in the last six months of being in the primary care setting and developing the relationships with patients has been incredible.”

Ross said examples of a couple who use Redmond Family Care’s services where she serves one spouse and Ford serves the other was a great example of the kind of relationships nurse practitioners have with their patients.

“They bring us wedding pictures from their daughter’s wedding,” she said. “That’s the kind of stuff we love.”

Now in its 14th year, National Nurse Practitioner Week was established in an effort to raise awareness for those providing medical care in a variety of settings, but also to celebrate their efforts for helping to ensure communities stay healthy.