What is a nurse practitioner?

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a master’s or doctoral degree prepared nurse that has additional training and clinical competency to practice in primary care, acute care and long-term care health settings.

NPs are quickly becoming the health care provider of choice for millions of Americans. Currently there are more than 248,000 nurse practitioners in the United States.

NPs undergo rigorous national certification and adhere to a code of ethical practice. They maintain continued learning and professional development throughout their career. NPs are licensed in the state in which they practice and follow the rules and regulations of that state. NPs autonomously, and in collaboration with other health care professionals, provide a full range of primary, acute and specialty health care services.

  • They order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests
  • They diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions.
  • They prescribe and manage medications
  • They order and interpret tests
  • They manage, counsel and educate patients on their overall healthcare in both outpatient and inpatient settings.

Nurse practitioners provide a unique approach to health care with their emphasis on the health of the whole patient.

NPs have helped lower health care costs, fill shortages by offering high-quality, cost-effective, patient-centered health care and provide an extremely high level of patient satisfaction.

Should I see a doctor or a nurse practitioner? What’s the difference?

Nurse practitioners do start their training as nurses but they further their education with several years of advanced clinical training and graduate or doctoral course work. They then pass a national certifying exam. Nurse Practitioners are required to maintain continuing education studies similar to physicians in order to maintain their license.

Nurse Practitioners can also be trained to perform procedures and assist surgeons with surgical procedures. That being said, nurse practitioners and their physician colleagues maintain a close working relationship. Physicians do receive a wider breadth of training and may be trained to handle to complex diagnosis and surgical procedures. Nurse practitioners will refer to their physician colleagues if they feel the patient they are caring for requires a specialist, be that surgical or another specialty.

Often times nurse practitioners and physicians work in close, collegial relationships and care for patients cohesively. Both avenues, nurse practitioner and physician, require years of clinical training and academics and bring extensive knowledge and dedication to the field of medicine. They are both important to maintain the health of our community!