POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - This week is National Nurse Practitioner Week, a time to celebrate the nearly 270,000 licensed in the United States.
While there’re hundreds of thousands of NP’s in the US, there are fewer than 1,500 in Idaho.
Currently, students at Idaho State University are working to increase that number. Third-year students in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program are just a semester away from receiving their degrees.
“Oh gosh, real-world," Tracy Roberts said with a smile.
As students like Roberts begin to wrap up their learning, many are preparing for what comes next. Roberts spent time as a registered nurse before entering the program. Now she, like most of Idaho's nurse practitioners, is looking to work in primary care.
“I wanted to learn more so that I could be involved in people’s lives and help them improve their health and maintain good health throughout the life span, not just in the acute care setting,” she said.
Roberts is from the Meridian area, but some of her peers, like Sarah Peterson, are here to bring their helping hands to even greater distances.
“I’m actually working in Oregon," Peterson said. "What’s near to my heart is rural health ... there’s just not enough doctors, nurse practitioners. I’m currently working in a community of less than 3,000 people.”
Her plan is to return to the Beaver State to add medical assistance in a much-needed way.
“We are their number one and their number one to go to and we become like a family caregiver for them,” Peterson said, explaining the importance of nurse practitioners to rural areas.
Sandra Woolstenhulme of Driggs would also like to return to her community to practice. For now, she’s focused on the hands-on training.
“I have a friend who is also going through a nurse practitioner program and hers is mostly distanced learning and so they don't have the opportunity to meet with the professors on a clinical intensive type of basis and I think that that is hugely valuable in being able to build our skills,” Woolstenhulme explained.
Those three, along with the rest of the third-year students, will be completing their degrees in May, walking away nurse practitioners from the program that has more registered than any other school in the state.
Of the nearly 1,300 nurse practitioners in Idaho, more than 80 percent are providing primary care.