What is a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?

A nurse practitioners (NP) is a nurse who has completed additional medical training and met the professional standards established by a national organization.

A nurse practioner may provide a broad range of preventive and acute health care services to individuals of all ages, including the following:

  • Taking the patient's history and performing a physical exam
  • Ordering lab tests
  • Diagnosing and treating diseases
  • Writing prescriptions
  • Referring patients to other medical professionals as needed
  • Providing patient education and supportive counseling
  • Performing certain procedures, such as a lumbar puncture

Some nurse practitioners work in clinics without doctor supervision, while others work together with doctors as a part of the medical team. Some of the responsibilities of a nurse practtioner can vary state to state, depending on state laws. For instance, some states allow nurse practitioners to write prescriptions, while other states do not.

Nurse practitioners must show proof of continuing medical education. Only certified nurse practitioners may use a "C" either in front of or behind their other credentials (e.g., Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, FNP-C, Certified Family Nurse Practitioner).

Some nurse practitioners may use the credential ARNP, which means advanced registered nurse practioner. This is a broader category that includes clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists.

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Last updated: 5/13/2022