What is a Nurse Practitioner?

Oct 12, 2021 by EMPWellness Admin

Due to the growing patient population, the health care system faces increasing demand for nursing professionals. However, the level of education and experience nurses have helps determine how effective they can be. Licensed nurses handle the most basic nursing duties, but registered nurses and nurse practitioners (NPs) have more advanced responsibilities. Comparing the educational requirements and duties of a nurse practitioner vs. RN will help practicing RNs determine whether they should pursue a postgraduate degree and nurse practitioner certification.

All nurse practitioners complete a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) program and a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. NPs then pass a standardized exam to get certification from the specialty nursing board that oversees their practice area. Finally, NPs must get a license from their state. The requirements vary and may include renewing a license or completing a certain number of continuing education hours each year.

An advanced practice nurse (APN) is a nurse with post-graduate education and training in nursing. Nurses practicing at this level may work in either a specialist or generalist capacity. APNs are prepared with advanced didactic and clinical education, knowledge, skills, and scope of practice in nursing.

Nurse Practitioners can serve as a primary care or specialty care providers and typically focus their care on a specific population such as families, children, or the elderly. As clinicians, they focus on health promotion and disease prevention in their patients.

NPs are health care providers that can prescribe medication, examine patients, order diagnostic tests, diagnose illnesses, and provide treatment, much like physicians do.

nurse practitioners play a larger role as primary care providers. They’re also vital to care in specialized medicine, which has its own physician shortages. There’s a lot of overlap in the roles of nurse practitioners and physicians, but nurse practitioners focus on preventing diseases and promoting the health and well-being of the whole person.

Their experience as working nurses gives them a unique approach to patient care, while their advanced studies qualify them to take on additional duties that are usually left to physicians.


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Nurse practitioners have full practice authority in 25 states, meaning that they do not have to work under the supervision of a doctor. In the remaining states, NPs still have more authority than RNs, but they need a medical doctor to sign off on certain patient care decisions.

In addition to being a general nurse practitioner, NPs can also specialize in a specific population. They will often attend a nursing program that allows them to specialize in this area and obtain clinical competency. If they choose a specialization, they’ll also need to become certified in the specific specialty area.

Many times, nurse practitioners work in collaboration with physicians, so you may see either one when you visit their office. You may also choose to see a nurse practitioner instead of a doctor. These appointments can be easier to schedule and less expensive.

Doctors have more training and are licensed differently. Nurse practitioners may provide treatment that is focused more on the whole patient, since their training emphasizes improved health and disease prevention rather than just disease treatment. Some surveys have found that patients are generally happier with the treatment they get from nurse practitioners than doctors.

Acute care nurse practitioners (ACNP) work in hospitals or acute care clinics. They see patients when they are sick, are admitted to the hospital, have injuries, or have surgical procedures. They treat patients from admission to discharge. They can order diagnostic and laboratory tests to help diagnose diseases. They may do procedures such as intubation, debriding wounds, and putting casts on injuries. They work as part of a health care team to develop a treatment plan and follow-up care.

Nurse practitioners treat a variety of issues relating to specialties like:

  • Acute care
  • Adult gerontology acute care
  • Adult gerontology primary care
  • Cardiac medicine
  • Family medicine
  • Gerontology
  • Neonatal medicine
  • Nurse midwife
  • Oncology
  • Orthopedics
  • Pediatrics
  • Pediatric acute care
  • Psychiatry and mental health
  • Women’s health

Nurse Practitioners earn a higher salary, have more responsibility and more career opportunities than many other types of nurses. This guide covered what a nurse practitioner does, how much they make, how to become one, and more.


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