What Is A Nurse Practitioner?

Within the healthcare system, you can find a variety of roles. From doctors to registered nurses, they all have different responsibilities. You might have also heard of a nurse practitioner but what is a nurse practitioner?

What Is A Nurse Practitioner?
What Is A Nurse Practitioner? 5

These registered nurses have undergone additional training in specialty fields, such as pediatrics. In this guide, we find out what a nurse practitioner is, what nurse practitioners do and what setting you usually come into contact with an NP.

What Is A Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner, also known as NP, is a fully qualified and registered nurse (RN) with additional training in a specific field, for example, pediatrics or family medicine. Family nurse practitioners typically provide health care for children of all ages.

Nurse practitioners are sometimes also called advanced practice nurses (APNs) as they have a Master’s degree in nursing and specialty training in a specific area.

All nurse practitioners follow the regulations and rules as set out by the Nurse Practice Act of the state where they practice. Some NPs who took a national board exam also provide additional credentials.

Their job title is usually Certified Family Nurse Practitioner (CFNP) or Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP).

Different Kinds Of Nurse Practitioners

As nurse practitioners are certified in a specialist field, they provide care for a specific group of patients, such as kids or people with cancer. Here are some of the most common nurse practitioner titles you can find within the healthcare system.

  • Psychiatric nurse practitioners
  • Family nurse practitioners
  • Pediatric nurse practitioners
  • Neonatal nurse practitioners
  • Acute care nurse practitioners
  • Emergency nurse practitioners
  • Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners
  • Women’s health nurse practitioners
  • Orthopedic nurse practitioners
  • Aesthetic nurse practitioners
  • Oncology nurse practitioners

What Does A Nurse Practitioner Do?

Nurse Practitioners work may provide individual health care for a certain group of people. They attend to people when they are sick and treat patients from the moment they are admitted to a hospital or clinic until they are discharged again.

Due to their specialized training and education, NPs can also order laboratory tests and diagnostics. This being said, a nurse practitioner also does hands-on tasks, such as putting casts on, debriding wounds or intubation.

They can work individually or together with other healthcare professionals, such as doctors or nurses in order to put together a treatment plan for patients.

The specific roles and responsibilities of nurse practitioners vary according to their specialist field and the state they work in. The majority of nurse practitioners are family nurse practitioners (FNP) who diagnose and treat a variety of health problems.

FNPs are permitted to work on their own in 20 US states, although most care nurse practitioners work under the supervision of a doctor or another physician. Here are some of the key tasks of a nurse practitioner:

  • Nurse practitioners document the health history of patients.
  • They perform physical examinations.
  • NPs do tests and order medical tests.
  • They treat short-term and chronic illnesses (see also “What Is A Pathologist?“).
  • Nurse practitioners can write prescriptions.
  • NPs can also educate and advise their patients about better self-care and a healthy lifestyle.
  • They can offer referrals to other medical professionals and social support.
  • NPs also can teach and educate student nurses and other health care members.
  • Some nurse practitioners also provide medical advice through telephone calls or video calls.

Can A Nurse Practitioner Prescribe Medication?

Yes, some US states permit nurse practitioners to prescribe medicine. However, other states may only allow an NP to write a prescription under the supervision of a doctor.

Where Do Nurse Practitioners Work?

What Is A Nurse Practitioner?
What Is A Nurse Practitioner? 6

As nurse practitioners provide patient-centered care, they work in a variety of health settings where patients need short-term and long-term treatment.

You can find nurse practitioners typically in hospitals, health clinics, physicians’ offices, urgent care facilities, nursing homes and emergency rooms.

Nurse practitioners also work as educators to nursing students and other healthcare professionals, so you may also see NPs in nursing schools and colleges.

How To Become A Nurse Practitioner?

The training and education of a nurse practitioner is similar to that of a registered nurse but it requires additional clinical training. All nurse practitioners must have a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing.

Plus, they also need a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree or a Master’s of Science in Nursing. Once NPs passed their standard exam, they need to get certification from a nursing board in their specialized area.

After they gained this additional certification, nurse practitioners need to apply for a license from the state where they practice.

There are specific requirements that NPs need to fulfill to be successful in their nursing license application, including a certain number of clinical hours. It takes between six and eight years for nurse practitioners to complete their training.

The Difference Between A Registered Nurse And A Nurse Practitioner

While registered nurses and nurse practitioners have very similar roles and responsibilities, there are a number of differences between these two healthcare jobs.

Education And Training

One of the key differences between nurse practitioners and registered nurses is their education and qualifications.

In order to work as a registered nurse, you need a nursing degree and you have to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

While a nurse practitioner also needs a nursing degree, they also need to have an additional Master’s degree, training, certification and clinical experience. This means that a nurse practitioner is higher up than a registered nurse.


Although registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners both look after patients, there is a key difference. Only nurse practitioners are allowed to prescribe treatments, diagnose patients and order medical tests.

Some US states permit NPs to pick up these responsibilities on their own, while other states allow nurse practitioners to diagnose and treat only with a supervising doctor.

This additional responsibility which resembles the work of a doctor means that a nurse practitioner holds more responsibility than a registered nurse.

Final Thoughts

Nurse practitioners are fully qualified nurses who have additional training in specialized fields, like family care or pediatrics.

Jason Sullivan
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