Nurse practitioners (NPs) provide dedicated primary and acute care, similar to physicians, but through a nursing lens. They can diagnose and treat basic health conditions, but they also pay attention to other factors affecting optimal health, such as prevention, counseling, and health education.
Depending on their interest, nurse practitioners can focus on a specialty area and have a subspecialty within that population. For example, a pediatric nurse practitioner can further specialize in cardiology, or an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner can work primarily in dermatology.
Nurse practitioners provide comprehensive care for their patients. They are licensed to prescribe medications, order lab tests or procedures, and refer to other practitioners. However, nurse practitioners may not be allowed to admit patients directly to the hospital, so they would need to collaborate with an attending physician.
In approximately 27 states (including D.C.), NPs can practice independently from physicians. In 13 states, they can work with partial supervision, while in 11 states, NPs have more restricted practices.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) have obtained their advanced practice nursing degrees by obtaining either a master’s or doctoral degree and completing additional clinical hours. Their practice area determines what further education, clinical training, and certifications they need.
The setting where the NP works determines much of their role, but general activities may include:
- Perform initial intake, ongoing management, and follow-up care
- Administer physical exams, order lab work, and other tests or referrals
- Document findings and maintain records
- Order medications
- Create patient-specific care plans
- Perform limited in-office procedures depending on specialty
- Collaborate with other health providers
- Manage nursing and other office staff
Nurse practitioners gain skills to manage the total care of their patients beyond what regular nurses do. They must be able to integrate both medical and nursing knowledge. NPs learn how to perform and interpret assessment findings, arrive at a working diagnosis, and develop a treatment plan.
Nurse practitioners are expected to increase their knowledge about prescribing and administering medications safely. Overall, NPs must learn to think independently, follow their instincts, and utilize strong critical thinking skills.