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1401 West 5th St. Sheridan, WY — 307.672.1000

What is a Nurse Practitioner?


By Kim Gilbert, FNP-C, AGACNP-BC

Kim Gilbert is a Family Nurse Practitioner at Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Internal Medicine practice.

I am a certified Family Nurse Practitioner, earning my master’s degree in 2012. Recently I completed a post-master’s certificate program through the University of Northern Colorado-Greeley as an Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, graduating in April 2020. I am now dual certified FNP/AGACNP. With this new certification, I am better able to care for our communities’ aging population, diagnosing and treating patients in both the clinic as well as the hospital.

            I would like to explain what a Nurse Practitioner is and what we do.  There are many types of health care providers in our current health care delivery system. Physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners make up a vast majority of them. Over the last fifty years, advanced practice nurse roles have increased and evolved with the ever-changing health care system.  Nurse practitioners, also known as NPs, are one type of advanced practice nurse. NPs are nurses who obtain additional training to provide either primary care or specialty care to a specific population. NPs are trained in a specific role based on the education they obtain. Nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat acute illness and chronic disease as well as provide preventative health care to the population they serve.

            The most common type of nurse practitioner is the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), making up approximately 70% of advanced practice nurses. Family Nurse Practitioners provide primary care to all ages. Some Family Nurse Practitioners obtain additional training such as Emergency NP or specialty, such as oncology. In addition to FNP, there are other nurse practitioner education programs that train to a specific population, such as pediatric (ages 0-21) or adult-gerontology (age 18 and older). Within these roles, there are educational programs geared toward primary care (PC), which is the management of chronic conditions and preventative care, or programs with an emphasis on acute care (AC), or the management of acute illness (which includes patients in the hospital setting). Another specific training program includes Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners (WHNP). These NPs provide a variety of care to women of all ages. Finally, there is the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). These NPs provide psychiatric and mental health care to all ages of patients.

            Nurse practitioners typically have either a master’s degree (MS) or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. State licensure and certification are required to practice within a state. Each state has specific requirements for practice, which includes required continuing education to maintain licensure as well as requirements to maintain the ability to prescribe medications, also known as prescriptive authority.

            As a health care consumer, there are many options and choices for receiving care. Understanding your options can be very difficult, especially as health care delivery systems change. Learning more about the training and certification your health care provider can help when you are looking for a primary care provider or if you become ill and require additional services such as hospitalization or specialty care.  Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Internal Medicine providers include physicians, physician assistants, and family nurse practitioners who are divided into teams to ensure patients receive consistent, well-managed and timely care.