This week is National Nurse Practitioner Week (Nov. 13-19), the goal of which is to honor those professionals in the health care industry who don't necessarily receive the spotlight.
An Ahwatukee Foothills favorite, Agnes Oblas, who won an Ahwatukee Best Of award last year, has been practicing locally since 1991.
She opened her own practice, New Paths to Healthcare, 10 years ago and has built a strong following since then.
The medical field, and especially the duties and responsibilities of nurse practitioners, has changed significantly since Oblas began practicing in 1980.
Now they do just about everything a physician can do, as a primary care provider can, but when she started, those that held the title had limited abilities compared to today.
Back then, she said, nurse practitioners were not allowed to use the word "diagnosis" when talking to a patient.
"We could asses the symptoms and persuade the patient had, for example, a bladder problem, but we weren't able to diagnose a urinary tract infection, or whatever it might be," Oblas said. "Now, it doesn't matter if it's a nurse or a doctor who gives the diagnosis. They are letting us assume more responsibility."
Oblas was born in Budapest, Hungary, and immigrated to Kansas City, Mo., after World War II.
She completed her undergraduate work at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis before attending Boston University where she received two master's degrees in nursing, one in general, medical and surgical, and one in adult primary care.
She said she had always wanted to become a nurse, and becoming a physician did not appeal to her.
"The connection you have with your patients is different," Oblas said. "I feel it is a more holistic approach because we become closer with the patient and learn more about who they are, and what their family history is."
Oblas, herself, went from 25 patients when she started to the 500 she has today.
Things have changed rapidly since then, and will continue to do so. In 2015, all nurse practitioners must achieve a doctorate degree to begin practicing.
As far as her practice goes, Oblas said she doesn't see herself retiring any time soon.
On the contrary, she feels as though she continues to build her practice every year.
"I'm still in the early stages of building a private practice," Oblas said. "There are still challenges, such as educating the public of just what a nurse practitioner is, and what they can do for you."
To find out more, visit New Paths to Healthcare, 13838 S. 46th Place, Suite 340, or call (602) 405-6320.
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