Nursingis a profession within thehealth caresector focused on the care of individuals, families, and communities so they may attain, maintain, or recover optimal health andquality of life. Nurses may be differentiated from otherhealth care providersby theirapproach to patient care,training, andscope of practice. Nurses practice in manyspecialtieswith differing levels ofprescription authority. Nurses comprise the largest component of most healthcare environments;but there is evidence of international shortages of qualified nurses.Many nurses provide care within the ordering scope ofphysicians, and this traditional role has shaped the public image of nurses as care providers. Nurse practitioners are however permitted by most jurisdictions to practice independently in a variety of settings. Since thepostwarperiod, nurse education has undergone a process of diversification towardsadvanced and specialized credentials, and many of the traditional regulations and provider roles are changing.
Nurses develop a plan of care, working collaboratively with physicians, therapists, the patient, the patient's family, and other team members that focuses on treating illness to improve quality of life. In the United Kingdom and the United States, advanced practice nurses, such as clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners, diagnose health problems and prescribe medications and other therapies, depending on individual state regulations. Nurses may help coordinate the patient care performed by other members of a multidisciplinary health care team such as therapists, medical practitioners, and dietitians. Nurses provide care both interdependently, for example, with physicians, and independently as nursing professionals.
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