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What is a Nurse Practitioner and What Do They Do?

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is a licensed and autonomous registered nurse (RN) with advanced training to manage people’s health conditions and prevent diseases. Since they receive more training than registered nurses, their duties are more complex and involve:

  • Administering physical exams
  • Obtaining medical histories
  • Providing immunizations
  • Administering preventative child care
  • Prescribing medications
  • Prescribing massage therapy, physical therapy, and other rehabilitation therapy
  • Diagnosing and treating illnesses
  • Ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests such as blood work, x-rays, and EKG’s
  • Diagnosing and managing chronic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes
  • Performing procedures such as casting, suturing, skin biopsy, and cryotherapy
  • Providing patient education to facilitate informed decision making
  • Referring complex cases to other health care providers

Also referred to as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), NPs usually specialize by demographic to address pediatric, women’s, or adult-gerontological health. An NP may specialize further in primary and acute care settings that include:

  • Pediatric health
  • Family health
  • Neonatal care
  • Geriatric health
  • Adult health
  • Mental health / psychiatric care
  • Women’s health / midwifery
  • School / college health

What is a Nurse Practitioner and What Do They Do? | Nursing Careers

Requirements for Nurse Practitioners

The role of NP was created in 1965. To practice as a nurse practitioner, you need a minimum of a master’s degree, though many NPs are opting to get a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) to access even greater job opportunities.

To become an independent practitioner, you need to meet the regulations outlines by the APRN consensus model with regard to the preparation and accredited education of an NP, as well as your licensure and certification. You are expected to have the skill and training to provide a wide range of services to at least one population focus – as mentioned above.

NP vs Physician

The duties of a nurse practitioner may appear to be similar to those of a physician, but there are a few differences. Generally, NPs specialize in specific areas of health care to provide all encompassing personal care – education, prevention, and wellness.

Even so, studies suggest that NPs provide exceptional healthcare services. In fact, patients under NPs often report fewer preventable hospitalizations, fewer hospital readmissions, fewer unnecessary ER visits, and higher satisfaction compared to those under physicians.

Moreover, seeking treatment from an NP is more cost-effective than visiting a doctor, largely because their educations costs are much lower – about 25 percent.

Should I Become a Nurse Practitioner?

A recent report showed that 88% of NPs expressed satisfaction with their career, while 66 percent of doctors would encourage students to become NPs as opposed to physicians. And with an annual average salary of over $100,000, becoming a nurse practitioner can be a very fulfilling career.

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