What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do? Exploring the Role of Advanced Practice Nurses

What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do? Exploring the Role of Advanced Practice Nurses


Nurse practitioners (NPs) are highly skilled and specialized healthcare professionals who play a crucial role in the delivery of primary and specialized healthcare services. As advanced practice nurses, they have an expanded scope of practice, allowing them to diagnose, treat, and manage various medical conditions. In this article, we will delve into the responsibilities and expertise of nurse practitioners, shedding light on their vital contributions to the healthcare system. Additionally, we will address some frequently asked questions (FAQs) to provide a comprehensive understanding of this essential healthcare role.

What does a nurse practitioner do?

A nurse practitioner is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) who is qualified to examine patients, diagnose illnesses, prescribe medication, and provide treatment. Nurse practitioners typically specialize in a specific area of medicine and their duties can vary depending on their area of specialization. Some of their general responsibilities include:

  • Performing patient screenings, reviewing their medical history, and conducting physical examinations

  • Verifying patient medical records for accuracy during appointments and updating the records as necessary

  • Analyzing test results, identifying the appropriate treatment options, and determining the need for a follow-up appointment

  • Serving as a patient resource for information, counseling, and guidance

  • Consult with physicians and other health care professionals as necessary

Average Salary

Salaries vary according to the geographic location and experience levels of the nurse practitioner.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $108,569 per year

  • Some salaries range from $41,000 to $208,000 per year

Becoming a Nurse Practitioner: Fulfilling the Requirements for a Rewarding Healthcare Career

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice nurses who hold a vital role in the healthcare industry. With their specialized training and expertise, they provide comprehensive patient care and play a significant role in promoting health and wellness. If you aspire to become a nurse practitioner and make a positive impact on patient’s lives, this article will guide you through the essential requirements and steps to achieve your career goals in this rewarding healthcare profession.


1: Educational Prerequisites

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN): The first step towards becoming a nurse practitioner is to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited nursing program. This undergraduate degree provides the foundation for advanced nursing education.
  2. Gain Nursing Experience: Many nurse practitioner programs require candidates to have clinical nursing experience, typically ranging from one to two years. Working as a registered nurse (RN) provides valuable hands-on experience and exposure to different healthcare settings.
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2: Pursuing Advanced Education

  1. Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): After earning a BSN and gaining sufficient clinical experience, aspiring nurse practitioners pursue advanced education. This involves enrolling in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program with a specialization in the desired NP area, such as family, adult-gerontology, pediatric, or women’s health.
  2. Accredited Nurse Practitioner Programs: Ensure that the NP program you choose is accredited by a recognized accrediting body, such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

3: Specialization and Certification

  1. Selecting a Specialty: Nurse practitioners can choose from various specialties, such as family, adult-gerontology, pediatric, psychiatric-mental health, and women’s health. The chosen specialty determines the focus of their clinical practice.
  2. National Certification: Upon completing the NP program, candidates must obtain national certification in their chosen specialty. Certification is typically obtained through recognized organizations like the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB).

4: State Licensure and Credentialing

  1. State Licensure: Nurse practitioners must be licensed to practice in the state where they intend to work. Licensing requirements vary by state but generally involve passing a national certification exam and meeting specific educational and clinical practice criteria.
  2. Credentialing and Privileges: Nurse practitioners seeking hospital or clinical privileges must go through a credentialing process, which involves an evaluation of their education, training, certification, and clinical experience.

5: Continuing Education and Professional Development

Nurse practitioners are committed to lifelong learning and staying updated with advancements in healthcare. Continuing education and participating in professional development opportunities help nurse practitioners enhance their knowledge and skills.

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Becoming a nurse practitioner is a rewarding journey that requires dedication, education, and specialized training. By completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), gaining clinical experience as an RN, and pursuing advanced education in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, aspiring nurse practitioners lay the foundation for their careers. With national certification in their chosen specialty and state licensure, nurse practitioners are ready to deliver high-quality and patient-centered care, making a significant impact on the healthcare community. Embracing continuous learning and professional development, nurse practitioners continue to evolve and contribute to the advancement of healthcare services, ensuring the well-being of their patients throughout their careers.

The Role of a Nurse Practitioner

  1. Comprehensive Patient Assessment: Nurse practitioners conduct comprehensive patient assessments, including medical history, physical examinations, and diagnostic tests.
  2. Diagnosis and Treatment: They have the authority to diagnose and treat common acute and chronic medical conditions, prescribing medications and other appropriate therapies.
  3. Health Promotion and Disease Prevention: Nurse practitioners emphasize health promotion and disease prevention, educating patients on lifestyle modifications and preventive measures.
  4. Chronic Disease Management: They manage patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma, providing ongoing care and monitoring.

Specializations and Expertise

Nurse practitioners often choose to specialize in specific areas of healthcare, such as:

  1. Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): Providing primary care across all ages, from infants to the elderly.
  2. Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP): Focusing on the healthcare needs of adult and older adult populations.
  3. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP): Specializing in pediatric care for infants, children, and adolescents.
  4. Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP): Focusing on women’s health, including gynecological and obstetric care.

Collaboration and Patient-Centered Care

Nurse practitioners work collaboratively with physicians and other healthcare professionals to deliver comprehensive and patient-centered care. They often act as primary care providers in underserved areas, improving access to healthcare services.


Educational and Licensing Requirements

  1. Education: Nurse practitioners hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, specializing in their chosen field.
  2. National Certification: After completing their advanced degree, nurse practitioners must obtain national certification from accredited certifying bodies.
  3. State Licensure: Nurse practitioners must be licensed in the state where they practice, meeting specific requirements and regulations.
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FAQs about Nurse Practitioners:

  1. What is the difference between a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse (RN)?
    • Nurse practitioners have advanced education and training, allowing them to diagnose, treat, and manage medical conditions independently, while RNs provide direct patient care and assist in treatment.
  2. Can nurse practitioners prescribe medications?
    • Yes, nurse practitioners have the authority to prescribe medications and order diagnostic tests within their scope of practice.
  3. Do nurse practitioners work in hospitals?
    • Yes, nurse practitioners work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, private practices, and community health centers.
  4. Can nurse practitioners open their clinics?
    • Depending on state regulations, some nurse practitioners have the autonomy to establish and operate their clinics, providing primary care services.
  5. Can nurse practitioners specialize in mental health care?
    • Yes, some nurse practitioners specialize in psychiatric and mental health care, offering counseling and medication management for mental health conditions.


Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who play a pivotal role in providing high-quality and patient-centered healthcare. With their extensive education, training, and specialized expertise, they contribute significantly to improving healthcare access and outcomes. As vital members of the healthcare team, nurse practitioners continue to make a positive impact in various medical settings, enriching the lives of the patients they serve.

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