Nurse practitioner

A nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice registered nurse and a type of mid-level practitioner.[1][2] NPs are trained to assess patient needs, order and interpret diagnostic and laboratory tests, diagnose disease, formulate and prescribe treatment plans. NP training covers basic disease prevention, coordination of care, and health promotion, but does not provide the depth of expertise needed to recognize more complex conditions.[3]

Nurse practitioner
US Navy 031027-N-0000W-001 Family Nurse Practitioner Lt. Cmdr. Michael Service cares for a young girl at the U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Yokosuka.jpg
A Navy nurse practitioner assessing a patient
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Education required
Depends on the country, but generally includes at least a post-graduate nursing degree
Fields of
Related jobs
Registered nurse

The scope of practice for a NP is defined by legal jurisdiction.[4][5] In some places, NPs are required to work under the supervision of a physician, and in other places they can practice independently.[6]


United States

The present-day concept of advanced practice nursing as a primary care provider was created in the mid-1960s, spurred on by a national shortage of physicians.[7] The first formal graduate certificate program for NPs was created by Henry Silver, a physician, and Loretta Ford, a nurse, in 1965.[7] In 1971, The U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Elliot Richardson, made a formal recommendation in expanding the scope of nursing practice to be able to serve as primary care providers.[8] In 2012, discussions arose between accreditation agencies, national certifying bodies, and state boards of nursing about the possibility of making the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree the new minimum standard of education for NP certification and licensure by 2015.[9]


Advanced practice nursing first appeared in the 1990s in Ontario.[10] These nurses practiced in neonatal intensive care units within tertiary care hospitals in collaboration with pediatricians and neonatologists.[10] Although the role of these nurses initially resembled a blended version of clinical nurse specialists and NPs, today the distinction has been more formally established.[10]

Nurse Practitioners in the United States

Education requirements

Becoming a nurse practitioner requires at least 1.5 years of post-baccalaureate training. During their studies, nurse practitioners are required to receive a minimum of 500 hours of clinical training.[11]

Although nurse practitioners are required to be licensed as registered nurses prior to obtaining their advanced practice registered nurse certification, there are several programs that combine a nursing undergraduate degree with nurse practitioner training. Other nurse practitioner programs have 100% acceptance rates.[12] Therefore, experience as a registered nurse is not required to become a nurse practitioner.

Controversies and criticism

A student filed a complaint against D'Youville College in 2019 with the New York State Department of Education, the Federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and D’Youville’s accrediting agency, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, regarding substandard academic and clinical training. Another student, Cristina Naslund, also recounted the quality of education at Maryville University as she was surprised to receive PowerPoint slides as lecture material to read instead of live or pre-recorded lectures by professors. “All of the classes are just a joke,” she said.[13]

Training pathways

There are many types of nurse practitioner programs in the United States with the vast majority being in the specialty of a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP).[14] There are also Psychiatric, Adult Geriatric Acute Care, Adult Geriatric Primary Care, Pediatric, and Neonatal nurse practitioner programs. Many of these programs have their pre-clinical or didactic courses taught online with proctored examinations. Once the students start their clinical courses they have online material, but are required to perform clinical hours at an approved facility under the guidance of an NP or Physician. Each clinical course has specific requirements that vary on their program's degree/eligibility for certification. For instance FNPs are required to see patients across the lifespan whereas Adult Geriatric NPs do not see anyone below the Age of 13.[15]

Quality of care

A review of studies comparing outcomes of care by NPs and physicians in primary care and urgent care settings were generally comparable, although the strength of the evidence was generally low, with virtually all of the studies sponsored by nursing organizations.[16] A recent study showed nurse practitioners practicing in states with independent prescription authority were > 20 times more likely to overprescribe opioids than nurse practitioners in prescription-restricted states.[17] Nurse practitioners and physician assistants were also associated with more unnecessary imaging services than primary care physicians, which may have ramifications on care and overall costs.[18]

One systematic review suggests "that the implementation of advanced practice nursing roles in the emergency and critical care settings improves patient outcomes in emergency and critical care settings".[19]

Scope of practice


In Australia, a Nurse Practitioner-endorsed Registered Nurse has an expanded scope of practice, allowing them to practice certain advanced clinical skills within their endorsed field. As a nurse practitioner, they can: complete an advanced health assessments, diagnose and treat diseases, order diagnostic testing such as imaging and pathology, and prescribe medications and therapeutics. Nurse Practitioners can, unlike non-endorsed Registered Nurses, access Medicare (universal healthcare system) payments for the services they provide to patients.[20] A Nurse Practitioner is not responsible for delegating care tasks to Registered Nurses in the same way a Registered Nurse delegates some care tasks to Enrolled Nurses, but has a senior clinician designation in the hierarchy of clinical staff.


In Canada, an NP is a registered nurse (RN) with a graduate degree in nursing. Canada recognizes them in primary care and acute care practice. NPs diagnose illnesses and medical conditions, prescribe Schedule 1 medications, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and perform procedures, within their scope of practice, and may build their own panel of patients at the same level as physicians.[21] Primary care NPs work in places like primary care and community healthcare centers, as well as long-term care institutions. The main focus of primary care NPs includes health promotion, preventative care, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic diseases and conditions. Acute care NPs serve a specific population of patients. They generally work in in-patient facilities that include neonatology, nephrology, and cardiology units.[22] There are currently three specialties for Nurse Practitioners in Canada: Family Practice, Pediatrics, and Adult Care. NPs who specialize in Family Practice work at the same level and offer the same services as Family Physicians with the exclusion of Quebec, where only Physicians are allowed to formulate a medical diagnosis.[23]


The Health Service Executive has the advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) grade.[24] ANPs may prescribe medications.[25]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom nurse practitioners carry out care at an advanced practice level. They commonly work in primary care (e.g. GP surgeries) or A&E departments, although they are increasingly being seen in other areas of practice.

United States

Because the profession is state-regulated, the scope of practice varies by state. Some states allow NPs to have full practice authority, however, in other states, a written collaborative or supervisory agreement with a physician is legally required for practice.[26] Autonomous practice was introduced in the 1980s, mostly in states facing a physician shortage or that struggled to find enough healthcare providers to work in rural areas.[27] The extent of this collaborative agreement, and the role, duties, responsibilities, nursing treatments, and pharmacologic recommendations again varies widely between states.[28][29][30]

NPs can legally examine patients, diagnose illness, prescribe some medications, and provide treatments. In 2017, twenty-two states gave full practice authority to NPs and do not require the supervision of a physician. Thirty-eight states require NPs to have a written agreement with a physician in order to provide care. Twelve of those states require NPs to be supervised or delegated by a physician, this physician may not be on site.[31]

Licensing and board certification


In Australia, nursing registration including endorsement of a RN as a Nurse Practitioner is overseen by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra). Registered Nurses working in rural and isolated communities can apply for scheduled medicine prescriber endorsement if clinically necessary and trained, and instead become a prescribing Registered Nurse rather than a Nurse Practitioner to better meet the need of less-resourced communities.[32] Nurse Practitioners are professionally represented by the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners, as well as the Australian College of Nursing. Endorsement as a Nurse Practitioner in either Australia or New Zealand is recognised by both countries as part of the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Scheme.

For a RN to apply to the NMBA for Nurse Practitioner endorsement, they must be able to demonstrate they have completed at least 5000 hours (three years, full-time equivalent) at an "advanced nursing practice" level. Advanced nursing practice is loosely defined, and not a specific role, but rather a recognised process of higher-level clinical practice within a nurse's existing scope of practice. The RN must also complete an approved Nurse Practitioner postgraduate master's degree, or demonstrate they have gained qualifications to an equivalent level in advanced health assessment, pharmacology, therapeutics, diagnostics, and research. Nurses applying through the latter pathway must also demonstrate the equivalent training is clinically relevant to the field for which they wish to apply for Nurse Practitioner endorsement in.[33]


In Canada, the educational standard is a graduate degree in nursing. The Canadian Nursing Association (CNA) notes that advanced practice nurses must have a combination of a graduate level education and the clinical experience that prepare them to practice at an advanced level. Their education alone does not give them the ability to practice at an advanced level. Two national frameworks have been developed in order to provide further guidance for the development of educational courses and requirements, research concepts, and government position statements regarding advanced practice nursing: the CNA's Advanced Nursing Practice: A National Framework and the Canadian Nurse Practitioner Core Competency Framework. All educational programs for NPs must achieve formal approval by provincial and territorial regulating nurse agencies due to the fact that the NP is considered a legislated role in Canada. As such, it is common to see differences among approved educational programs between territories and provinces. Specifically, inconsistencies can be found in core graduate courses, clinical experiences, and length of programs. Canada does not have a national curriculum or consistent standards regarding advanced practice nurses. All advanced practice nurses must meet individual requirements set by their provincial or territorial regulatory nursing body.


As of November 2013, NPs were recognized legally in Israel.[34]

United States

The path to becoming an NP in the U.S. begins by earning an undergraduate degree in nursing and requires licensure and experience as an RN. One must then complete graduate or doctoral studies with additional medical training before taking national board certification testing in their specialty field.


The salary of an NP generally depends on the area of specialization, location, years of experience, and level of education. In 2015, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) conducted its 4th annual NP salary survey. The results revealed the salary range to be between $98,760 to $108,643 reported income among full-time NPs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, NPs in the top 10% earned an average salary of $135,800. The median salary was $98,190. According to a report published by Merritt Hawkins, starting salaries for NPs increased in dramatic fashion between 2015 and 2016.[citation needed] The highest average starting salary reached $197,000 in 2016. The primary factor in the dramatic increase in starting salaries is skyrocketing demand for NPs, recognizing them as the 5th most highly sought after advanced health professional in 2016.[35]

See also


  1. ^ "Mid-level health providers: a promising resource to achieve the health Millennium Development Goals" (PDF). World Health Organization. 2010. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  2. ^ "Mid-Level Practitioners Authorization by State" (PDF). US Department of Justice. 4 January 2021. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  3. ^ Compare the Education Gaps Between Primary Care Physicians and Nurse Practitioners. Primary Care Coalition. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  4. ^ Stokowski, RN, MS, Laura A. "APRN Prescribing Law: A State-by-State Summary". Medscape. Retrieved 25 November 2015.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "Scope of Practice for Nurse Practitioners" (PDF). AANP Policy Statements. American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  6. ^ Jaspen, Bruce (24 February 2017). "More States Lift Patient Hurdles To Nurse Practitioners". Forbes (Pharma and Healthcare: Medicine). Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Ford, Loretta C." National Women’s Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  8. ^ "Historical Perspectives on an Expanded Role for Nursing". Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  9. ^ "The History of Nurse Practitioners". Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  10. ^ a b c Dicenso, Abla; Bryant-Lukosius, Denise. "Clinical Nurse Specialists and Nurse Practitioners in Canada: A Decision Support Synthesis" (PDF). Canadian Health Services Research Foundation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-13. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  11. ^ "Statement Regarding Nurse PractitionerStudentsandDirect Care Clinical Hours" (PDF).
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Nurse practitioner field grapples with question of whether to standardize curriculum nationwide".
  14. ^ [1]. American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Retrieved May 5, 2020/
  15. ^ [2]. Nurse Journal. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  16. ^ "Evidence Brief: The Quality of Care Provided by Advanced Practice Nurses". VA Evidence Synthesis Program Evidence Briefs. VA Evidence Synthesis Program Reports. Department of Veterans Affairs (US). 2011.
  17. ^ Lozada MJ, Raji MA, Goodwin JS, Kuo YF. Opioid Prescribing by Primary Care Providers: a Cross-Sectional Analysis of Nurse Practitioner, Physician Assistant, and Physician Prescribing Patterns. J Gen Intern Med. 2020 Sep;35(9):2584-2592. doi: 10.1007/s11606-020-05823-0. Epub 2020 Apr 24. PMID 32333312; PMCID: PMC7459076.
  18. ^ Hughes DR, Jiang M, Duszak R. A Comparison of Diagnostic Imaging Ordering Patterns Between Advanced Practice Clinicians and Primary Care Physicians Following Office-Based Evaluation and Management Visits. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(1):101–107. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6349
  19. ^ Woo, B. F.; Lee, J. X.; Tam, W. W. (2017). "The impact of the advanced practice nursing role on quality of care, clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction, and cost in the emergency and critical care settings": A systematic review". Human Resources for Health. 15 (1): 63. doi:10.1186/s12960-017-0237-9. PMC 5594520. PMID 28893270.
  20. ^ "Nurse Practitioners Career Guide" (PDF). Australian College of Nurse Practitioners. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  21. ^ "Scope of Practice for Nurse Practitioner - College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta" (PDF). College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta. 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  22. ^ "How to Become an Advanced Practice Nurse in Canada". Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  23. ^ "Scope of Practice for Nurse Practitioner" (PDF). College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta. December 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  24. ^ "Minister for Health publishes Final Evaluation Report which demonstrates the many benefits of Advanced Nursing Practitioners". Department of Health (Ireland).
  25. ^ "Changing role of nursing profession". Sligo Champion. September 26, 2020 – via
  26. ^ Hancock, Jay (2010-04-14). "Jay Hancock's blog: Md. should make nurse practitioners independent". Retrieved 2011-08-31.
  27. ^ Vestal, Christine (2013-07-19). "Nurse Practitioners Slowly Gain Autonomy". Kaiser Health News. Retrieved 2019-05-22.
  28. ^ Flanagan, Lyndia (October 1998). "Nurse Practitioners: Growing Competition for Family Physicians?". Family Practice Management. 5 (9): 34–43. PMID 10187057.
  29. ^ Brown, Deonne J. (October 2007). "Consumer perspectives on nurse practitioners and independent practice". Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. 19 (10): 523–9. doi:10.1111/j.1745-7599.2007.00261.x. PMID 17897116. S2CID 9389332.
  30. ^ Kaplan, Louise; Brown, Marie-Annette (March 2004). "Prescriptive Authority and Barriers to NP Practice". Nurse Practitioner. 29 (3): 28–35. doi:10.1097/00006205-200403000-00004. PMID 15021500. S2CID 4001124. INIST:15566634.
  31. ^ "Nurse Practitioner State Practice Environment". American Association of Nurse Practitioners. February 2017. Retrieved 2017-06-06.
  32. ^ "Registration standard for endorsement for scheduled medicines registered nurses (rural and isolated practice)". Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. 31 March 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  33. ^ "Guidelines: For nurses applying for endorsement as a nurse practitioner". Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. 8 August 2019. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  34. ^ "Israeli Ministry of Health - Legislation Library" (PDF).
  35. ^ "Nurse Practitioner Salary | Certified Nurse Midwife | Anesthetist Salaries". Retrieved 2017-05-16.

External links