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Advancing the Practice of the Nurse Practitioner in Dermatology

Advancing the Practice of the Nurse Practitioner in Dermatology

Lakshi M. Aldredge_headshotDermatology continues to face a persistent unmet demand in patient care. Though there is a steady net annual growth rate of 1.76% in the physician workforce, dermatology practices across the country are employing physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs), or advanced practice clinicians, at increasing rates. For years the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants (SDPA) has acted as the voice and leadership of PAs practicing in the dermatology sphere, yet there was a lack of an equivalent organization solely for NPs. The newly formed Society of Dermatology Nurse Practitioners (SDNP) seeks to bring together and unify the dermatology NP workforce.

“While there have been other dermatology nurse practitioner organizations, this is the first organization fully committed to our mission of the promotion of excellence in advanced practice dermatology nursing,” said Lakshi M. Aldredge, MSN, ANP-BC, DCNP, president of the SDNP. She currently practices in the dermatology service and serves as the primary care NP residency program director at VA Portland Health Care System in Portland, OR. According to Ms Aldredge, there are approximately 5000 NPs who practice in the dermatology space and who identify as dermatology NPs. With a large number of NPs providing dermatologic care, the SDNP saw a need to bring those clinicians under one roof.

“Our mission is to promote the highest quality of care in advanced practice dermatology with several key focus areas,” she explained. “We want all dermatology NPs to be certified in the specialty of dermatology, to practice clinically using evidence-based data and guidelines, and to participate in intra-professional research.”

Similarly to its PA-sister organization, the SDNP provides a home for all dermatology NPs, no matter where they practice, what their setting looks like, or what resources they have available. Ms Aldredge noted that NPs oftentimes practice in nonconventional areas or in communities that are challenging to reach, such as in rural or low-income areas or with Indigenous people. “So, regardless of their practice location, the SDNP will be responsive to what dermatology NPs identify as their educational needs,” she said.

Further, the SDNP will unify the voice of dermatology NPs, both within the dermatology space and the general health care setting. “If a physician-led organization is developing some guidelines in the dermatology space, we want to be able to share the perspective of the dermatology NP with our physician colleagues,” said Ms Aldredge. In a similar vein, she explained, the SDNP is working as a resource for the public to speak to and advocate for patients and their needs.

“One of the areas that dermatology NPs are particularly strong in is education of patients—it’s the basis of our nursing background. We really want to collaborate with our physician and PA colleagues to develop these patient-focused educational tools in a fair, balanced, and robust discussion where all voices and perspectives on patient care are heard,” she said.

An emphasis of the new organization is certification and education of its membership. Certification is essential in health care today; it is a demonstration of competency and a measure of confidence for the public, and payers look at certification as a way of appropriately allocating renumeration. Ms Aldredge emphasized that part of the Society’s mission is to ensure dermatology NPs are certified; the SDNP promotes the need for specialized training in dermatology and the certification exam administered by the Dermatology Nurse Practitioner Certification Board. The SDNP offers an annual symposium to provide education to help NPs prepare for that exam. However, to maintain that certification, NPs need a certain number of CEUs. To fulfill those credit requirements, the SDNP offers free monthly webinars that are evidence-based, timely, and relevant to the dermatology NP. This educational content is available for free to both members and nonmembers.

As for member benefits, the SDNP offers evidence-based guidelines, tools that can help dermatology NPs assess patients properly and use objective standards in measuring disease severity, and the latest information on therapeutics and how to monitor those modalities. The SDNP aims to give its members the resources needed to take their practice to the highest level of their license and training, ongoing missions for sister organizations like the SDPA and American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Thanks to years of experience working alongside physicians and PAs by SDNP leadership and experts, partnerships with the SDPA and and AAD were natural collaborations. “Several officers have practiced in the dermatology space as dermatology NPs for years and have worked with our physician and PA colleagues on medical advisory boards on developing national guidelines of care,” said Ms Aldredge. “So, having a seat at the table is not something new for us, and we look forward to continuing to do so through the SDNP.” 

To become a member of the SDNP, dermatology NPs can visit www.dermnp.org for more information. Ms Aldredge also encourages people to reach out to her directly at lakshimialdredge@gmail.com if they have any other questions.

 

References
1. Glazer AM, Farberg AS, Winkelmann RR, Rigel DS. Analysis of trends in geographic distribution and density of US dermatologists. JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(4):322- 325. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.5411


2. Kimball AB, Resneck JS Jr. The US dermatology workforce: a specialty remains in shortage. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;59(5):741-745. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2008.06.037

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