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Local nurse practitioner earns health care honor

LAWRENCEVILLE - A local nurse practitioner was recently honored for her efforts to improve Georgians' access to health care.

Karen Schwartz, the health policy director for the United Advanced Practice Registered Nurses of Georgia, received the State Award for Nurse Practitioner Excellence during the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners 24th National Conference in Nashville, Tenn. The award, founded in 1991, recognizes a practitioner who demonstrates excellence in practice, research, practitioner education and community affairs.

Schwartz, a Duluth resident, works at Preferred Women's Healthcare in Lawrenceville. She was recognized for her work since 2000 to help improve access to health care for Georgia residents and for lobbying for the 2006 legislation that made Georgia the 50th state to allow nurse practitioners to sign prescriptions.

In addition to helping patients, helping to advance the scope of an NP's practice is a necessary part of the job, Schwartz said.

"We are able to function better without having as many delays. Patients are seen more efficiently," she said. "It also opens doors for us to be able to work in more settings."

Schwartz said she will continue to press for more responsibilities such as recent legislation that allows NPs to make a pronunciation of death.

"As our population ages, we are trying to improve a practitioner's ability to do more because we're not going to have enough physicians to see the whole population. It will free them up to see more complicated patients."

Nurse practitioners are licensed and regulated by the state in which they practice and must be nationally certified. Schwartz has 14 years of experience in the medical field, nine as an NP. She holds a master's degree in nursing from Georgia State University.

She said that recognition helps spread knowledge about just what it is that the NP of today is capable of.

"I'm very appreciative to be acknowledged ... and respected for the work that I've done; I'm very thankful," she said. "The nurse practitioner is becoming more and more utilized. Once people understand that we are highly educated and can see them for common complaints, they appreciate the service we offer them."