Nurses use their knowledge of disease and nursing theory to help treat adult patients in an internal medicine clinic setting. While internal medicine physicians may specialize in a particular area or disease, the nurses uses their training and skills to observe and assist in a variety of areas. This helps lead to the diagnosis and treatment.
The educational requirements for an internal medicine nurse vary based on a particular clinic's policy. For instance, the clinic may prefer a registered nurse, or RN, to a licensed practical nurse, or LPN, due to the extent of services offered at an internal medicine clinic. An RN is given a wider range of responsibilities than an LPN. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that RNs typically take one of three education paths: a bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), or a diploma from an approved nursing program. RNs also must be licensed. To become licensed, they must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN. LPNs must complete an accredited program available at technical schools and community colleges. These programs usually take a year. LPNs must also pass the NCLEX-PN. Additional training in wound care and ambulation are also useful for nurses in the internal medicine clinic setting.
A nurse in an internal medicine clinic sees patients based on the daily schedule. She assesses each patient based on subjective and objective data, or what the patient tells her and what she observes. She does an in-depth patient interview and gets a history of illnesses and diseases for the patient and family members. The nurse uses the information, along with test results, to form a nursing diagnosis and create a patient care plan.
The nurse uses her skills to help the physician form a medical diagnosis. She typically takes the patient’s vital signs, draws blood for lab tests and administers medication, like antibiotics, as directed by the physician. She also provides the patient with disease-specific education based on the medical diagnosis. This might include issuing medication guidelines and telling the patient how to manage a chronic disease that internal medicine physicians often treat, such as diabetes or asthma.
Internal medicine nurses help patients who are healthy stay healthy, since preventive medicine and screening is a focus of internal medicine. She assists the physician when performing routine exams on adults, like yearly physicals and pap smears. She also performs other tests, like glucose monitoring, when ordered by the physician. Depending on clinic policy, the nurse might also offer triage via telephone or email.