What Makes Nurse Practitioners Different From Registered Nurses? 

Nurse Practitioners Different From Registered Nurses
Written by Guest Author

Nursing is a multifaceted field with many unique challenges. It is one of the highest paying healthcare professions. To succeed as an aspiring nurse, it’s essential that you understand what education and experiences are required for different roles within the profession, from becoming registered nurses to advanced practice positions like nurse practitioners.

There are many differences between nurse practitioners and registered nurses, the most significant being nurse practitioners work with more autonomy and less oversight with an advanced skill set and education. Both of these professionals work in healthcare, but they have different roles to play to help patients. 

In this blog post, we are going to explore the diversifications in two career paths.


Nurses must be proficient not only in the technical areas of medicine but also in patient safety and compliance. Being a patient care tech, means you are passionate about your profession and you have taken training from a reputed institute. A nurse practitioner (NP) is a highly trained professional who can oversee basic healthcare needs and even make a diagnosis. The difference between them and general nursing is that an NP position requires graduate-level coursework before you get started.

Let’s take a look at the differences in qualifications between the two professions: 

Registered Nurse (RN)

Many people believe a bachelor’s degree in nursing is the only way to become a registered nurse. However, other options for those looking to start their nursing careers may offer more flexibility and variety in terms of the job description, roles, and responsibilities. Registered nurses can also work for nursing agencies

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Some examples include:

  • Nursing Diploma from an approved program
  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  • Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Nurses are encouraged in their field of study and in other educational pursuits like certificate programs and graduate degrees—if they have plans beyond simple nursing careers. This includes: 

  • Care delivery
  • Basic pharmacology
  • Data management
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Microbiology and chemistry
  • Behavioral and life sciences
  • Fundamentals of nursing theory and practice.

Nurse Practitioner (NP):  

Nurse practitioners are a great asset to any team. You need a masters in nursing to nurse practitioner to pursue primary patient care and delivery. This will take some time as it requires additional education beyond just a bachelor’s. The coursework also requires you to practice clinical hours, which means spending time in hospitals and healthcare facilities, attending to patients, interpreting medical tests, and collaborating with doctors for devising treatment strategies. 

A nurse practitioner degree can take six to eight years without any prior education in nursing. Degree’s core concepts include: 

  • Discrete statistics and research methodology
  • Leadership and management in nursing
  • Introduction to population health, nurse-patient advocacy, and health care policy
  • Principles of advanced nursing practice
  • Evidence-based nursing practice
  • Advanced health and hygiene assessment.

Nurse Practitioners Different From Registered Nurses

Differences in Scope of Practice

A registered nurse (RN) is a professional healthcare provider who can provide basic patient care, coordinate it with other professionals and educate the family about their condition. Their duties and scope of work consists of: 

  • Recording patient medical history completely
  • Analyzing, effective  monitoring and observing patient health conditions
  • Collaborating innovatively with other healthcare professionals
  • Administering the given treatments, medications along with diagnostic tests
  • Sharing the relevant information with patients and their families
  • Understanding and operating medical and surgical equipment
  • Interacting with healthcare technological devices, such as electronic health records (EHRs)
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SImilarly, a nurse practitioner has the same general charge to provide and coordinate care, but their graduate education is designed with a focus on increasing responsibility. This includes:

  • Critical interpretation of diagnostic results, which consists of blood testing and X-rays
  • Diagnosing and providing treatment to chronic conditions (heart disease, diabetes, infections, and injuries)
  • Creating and implementing individual patient care plans
  • Prescribing and handling medications for multiple patients
  • Guiding patients on overall health and wellness of their physical and mental conditions
  • Creating counseling plans in patients and their families by directing them toward resources, materials, or necessary referrals to other healthcare resources
  • Acting as a mentor to other healthcare professionals/nurses
  • Educating and creating awareness in patients on the topic of disease prevention to promote positive and healthy lifestyle choices

Practice Authority of RN and NP

Registered nurses are supposed to act as extensions of the physician in charge, with roles that include taking instructions for job duties. There is some level upon which an RN can be autonomous–based on their experience and specialization; however, depending on where you work or the kind of patient care, RNs can’t act without a superior’s approval.

NPs, on the other hand, often work autonomously with more freedom, and studies show that nurse practitioners perform as well as physicians in most areas of primary care. 

Final Thoughts

Nurse practitioners are well-qualified and experienced professionals who possess the skills, knowledge, and expertise to provide quality healthcare. As such, they are a valuable asset in the healthcare industry that needs diversification. 

The difference between RNs and NPs is one of the scopes of practice; an NP will have more autonomy in their work than an RN would. 

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