What Is the Scope of Practice for VA Nurse Practitioners?

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Nurse practitioner students work together in a medical setting.Our nation’s military veterans are remarkable for the extent of their service and sacrifice. Looking out for the well-being of veterans when they return home from active duty and making certain they get high-quality health care is crucial. Nurse practitioners play an essential role in delivering this care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities nationwide.

Aspiring VA nurse practitioners can prepare by learning more about the scope of practice for this role and how it serves the special needs of veterans, as well as how enrolling in a post-master’s nurse practitioner certificate program can help them hone their clinical skills.

The Scope of Practice for VA Nurse Practitioners

VA nurse practitioners offer veterans a range of health services, from conducting basic wellness checks to providing mental health counseling. For those who aspire to be nurse practitioners for the VA, it may be helpful to know more about the overall scope of practice.

What Do VA Nurse Practitioners Do?

Typically, the scope of practice for any nurse practitioner depends on the state they practice in; states place different restrictions on what nurse practitioners can do. However, the VA has granted full practice authority to nurse practitioners, allowing them to serve in a primary care role for their patients.

The VA has historically operated as a nationwide health network, meaning that providers may practice within the scope of their VA employment without being bound to the limitations that state laws and regulations imposed on nurse practitioners’ scope of practice.

Specifically, their full practice authority means that VA nurse practitioners can do the following:

  • Take comprehensive medical histories and conduct physical examinations
  • Diagnose patients with chronic or acute conditions
  • Develop, implement, and monitor treatment plans
  • Order and interpret laboratory tests and medical imaging
  • Prescribe medications
  • Refer patients to specialists or external services

Where Do VA Nurse Practitioners Work?

For nurse practitioners who aspire to serve in a VA role, opportunities abound. The VA represents the largest integrated health care system in the nation, comprising some 1,243 health care facilities in total. These include 170 VA medical centers and 1,063 outpatient care facilities.

What Practice Areas Are Available?

Nurse practitioners working in the VA system can choose any number of practice areas, including primary care, as well as specialties such as psychiatric mental health care. Note that post-master’s certificates may be necessary to equip nurse practitioners for more specialized areas of clinical care.

Veterans’ Health Care Needs

The VA delivers health care to more than 9 million veterans each year — some of it routine, some of it highly specialized and specific to the veteran population.

Veterans face many of the same health concerns as civilians, from primary care to surgical care to cardiology care. Also, as veterans age, they often experience the same types of chronic conditions typical in adult-gerontology care, such as diabetes or dementia.

However, veterans often face health care problems unique to their military service, including the following:

  • Long-term health concerns due to exposure to toxic chemicals or poisonous gases in other parts of the world
  • Ongoing issues due to injuries, including significant brain injuries, from traumatic accidents
  • Mental health concerns associated with military service, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its manifestations, including substance use issues, anxiety, and depression
  • Ongoing wound care to help mitigate significant injuries sustained during military service

VA nurse practitioners can play a vital role in accommodating these specific medical needs.

Nurse Practitioner Certifications That Align with Veterans’ Health Care Needs

Nursing professionals interested in developing the expertise to provide high-quality, specialized care to veterans should consider cultivating new clinical competencies through post-master’s certificate programs. Many of these certificates align closely with the particular needs of the veteran population.

  • By obtaining a certificate in psychiatric mental health care, nurse practitioners can develop greater skill in addressing issues common to veterans, such as PTSD or substance abuse.
  • Nurse practitioners who seek adult-gerontology certificates may be better equipped to diagnose and treat issues like dementia in the older veteran population.
  • Specialization in acute care practice may be a good way to foster skill in wound care or traumatic brain injury treatment, both of which pertain to veterans’ specific needs.

Ultimately, seeking post-master’s certificates is a valuable way for nurse practitioners to broaden their expertise and position themselves to make a real difference in the lives of veterans.

Make a Difference in Veterans’ Health Care

VA nurse practitioners are essential to supporting the health and well-being of the nation’s military veterans. If you’re drawn to make a difference in this important role, consider Regis College’s online Post-Master’s Nurse Practitioner Certificate program, which offers specializations in adult-gerontology acute care, psychiatric mental health care, and more. Discover how you can develop the specialized skills to serve veterans well.

Recommended Readings

9 Essential Qualities of Nurse Leadership

What Are the Benefits of Nursing Certification?

What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Sources:

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Are You Considering a Career as Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, National Nurse Practitioner Week: Strengthening Health Care Access for Our Nation’s Veterans

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Scope of Practice for Nurse Practitioners

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Final Rule

Federal Register, Authority of VA Professionals to Practice Health Care

Govinfo, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 38, Section 17.415

Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, “Military TBI — What Civilian Primary Care Providers Should Know”

MedlinePlus, Veterans and Military Health

Pew Research Center, “The Changing Face of America’s Veteran Population”

RAND Corporation, “A Shared Definition of High-Quality Care Can Help Veterans Combat Invisible Wounds”

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Issues Related to Service History

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VHA Nurse Practitioner Careers