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Preparing Patients for Infectious Diseases as a Family Nurse Practitioner

The term “infectious disease” has a somewhat new reputation. We’ll remember, for a long time, how impactful the COVID-19 pandemic has been. No matter the direction this infectious disease takes in the future, it’s important for healthcare professionals, and the general public, to understand and manage infectious diseases.

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) have a tremendous opportunity to provide key information about infectious diseases to their patients and communities. These professionals play a pivotal role in preparing populations, groups and individual patients for potential contagious diseases and their impact, particularly amidst an ever-evolving healthcare landscape in which the physician pool is shrinking.

Infectious Disease Causes and Treatments

The primary causes of infectious diseases, as the Cleveland Clinic outlines, can range from viruses and bacteria to fungi and parasites. These pathogens often transmit via direct contact, such as skin-to-skin contact or through body fluids. Infectious diseases can also spread via indirect contact, like inhaling aerosols containing pathogens or consuming contaminated food and water.

The disparity of infectious disease sources means medications can vary significantly. As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a treatment plan is contingent on the type and severity of the infection, the patient’s health status and the pathogen’s susceptibility to medication. Among the most common medications are antibiotics for bacterial infections, antivirals for viral infections and antifungals for fungal infections.

It is worth noting that the misuse and overuse of these medications can contribute to the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance — emphasizing the need for FNPs to educate patients on the appropriate use of these drugs. Patients often want a “quick fix” to resolve symptoms but don’t realize doing so could set them up for even worse health concerns down the road.

FNPs’ Role in Addressing Infectious Disease Risk

Addressing the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases requires a multi-faceted approach. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), key strategies include:

  • promoting vaccination
  • educating on personal hygiene
  • monitoring for signs of infection
  • ensuring safe food preparation
  • providing timely and appropriate treatment

These prevention strategies form part of the larger public health strategy to manage infectious diseases. To prepare patients effectively, FNPs need to actively educated the public about these strategies. This comes through a variety of channels, such as community outreach programs, health promotion events and during individual patient consultations.

Moreover, FNPs are often the primary point of contact for patients within the healthcare system, allowing them to foster strong relationships with patients. By building trust and open communication, FNPs can facilitate a greater understanding of disease prevention and treatment among patients — and thus influence healthier behaviors.

Accelerate Your Infectious Disease Knowledge With an MSN Program

In their unique position within the healthcare system, FNPs can ensure patients have the knowledge and resources needed to prevent and manage these diseases effectively — ultimately contributing to the improvement of overall community health.

Through comprehensive training, such as that offered by the Northern Kentucky University (NKU) Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Family Nurse Practitioner online program, FNPs become empowered to effectively prepare patients for infectious disease risk. A crucial course collection in NKU’s program is Primary Care of Adolescents and Adults I, II and III.

I. The first course covers the “pathophysiology, principles of health promotion and disease prevention, assessment, diagnosis, and therapeutic management of common health problems” within major bodily systems (ears, eyes, nose and throat, as well as neurological, psychosocial, dermatological, musculoskeletal and abdominal systems).

II. The follow-up course delves into additional physiological areas, including renal, women’s health/gynecology, fetal development, preconception and prenatal, men’s health, hematological, immunological and respiratory systems.

III. An essential part of the third course dedicated to the primary care of adolescents and adults involves learning surrounding standard laboratory and diagnostic tests — a crucial element of infectious disease identification.

Students can complete the MSN – FNP online program in as few as 24 months. There are also multiple start dates (six total), providing even greater flexibility.

FNPs often act as both caregivers and educators within their communities. Their training, such as that provided by NKU’s program, is critical to fostering a resilient healthcare environment that can respond to emerging health threats effectively and efficiently.

Learn more about NKU’s online Master of Science in Nursing – FNP program.

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