What is the Difference Between Nurse Practitioner and Registered Nurse?

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse? While both are essential roles in the healthcare field, they have different responsibilities and levels of education. If you’re considering a career in nursing, it’s necessary to understand the distinctions between these two professions.

This blog post explores the key differences between nurse practitioners and registered nurses, including their scope of practice, education requirements, and salary expectations. Whether you’re just starting or looking to advance your nursing career, this guide will help you decide on your professional path.

What is the Difference Between Nurse Practitioner and Registered Nurse?

Registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) are both essential roles in healthcare, but these two professions have several key differences. Here are some of the main differences:

  1. Education: RNs typically have a diploma, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree in nursing, while NPs must have a master’s degree. NPs also have additional training in diagnosing, treating, and managing acute and chronic medical conditions. If you’re considering becoming an NP, you might explore niche roles like a locum tenens nurse practitioner.
  2. Scope of practice: RNs provide primary patient care, including administering medication, monitoring vital signs, and assisting with patient hygiene. NPs have a broader range of practice and can perform many of the same tasks as physicians, including ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, prescribing medication, and diagnosing and treating common illnesses.
  3. Autonomy: RNs work under the supervision of physicians, while NPs often have more independence in their practice. In some states, NPs can work independently and provide primary care services without physician oversight.
  4. Salary: Because of their higher level of education and greater scope of practice, NPs generally earn a higher wage than RNs. However, salaries can vary depending on location, experience, and specialty.

RNs and NPs play essential roles in the healthcare field, but NPs have a higher level of education and more autonomy in their practice. If you’re considering a career in nursing, it’s essential to understand these differences and choose the path that best suits your skills and interests. Understanding the skills you need to be a nurse practitioner can also play a critical role in your career decision.

What are the Job Duties of a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who provide a wide range of healthcare services to patients of all ages. Their job duties may vary depending on their specialty and the setting in which they work, but in general, they may:

  1. Conduct patient assessments: NPs conduct comprehensive physical exams, take medical histories, and order and interpret diagnostic tests.
  2. Diagnose and treat illnesses: NPs can diagnose and treat various acute and chronic diseases, prescribe medications, and provide other treatments such as injections or minor surgical procedures.
  3. Develop and implement treatment plans: NPs work with patients to develop personalized treatment plans, including medication management, lifestyle changes, and referrals to other healthcare providers.
  4. Educate patients: NPs educate patients on disease prevention, healthy living, and medication management. Resources from trusted health institutions like the Mayo Clinic can enhance patient education.
  5. Collaborate with other healthcare providers: NPs work closely with other healthcare professionals to coordinate patient care. This might include professionals like physical therapists from renowned centers such as Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  6. Manage chronic conditions: NPs often provide ongoing care and management for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.
  7. Prescribe medications: NPs can prescribe medications and monitor their effectiveness, adjusting doses as needed.

Overall, the job duties of an NP are focused on providing high-quality, patient-centered care, often in collaboration with other healthcare providers.

Positions in the Nursing Hierarchy

Is a nurse practitioner higher than a registered nurse?

Yes, a nurse practitioner (NP) is higher than a registered nurse (RN) in the nursing hierarchy. While both roles are important and have different responsibilities, NPs have a higher level of education and more advanced skills, which allows them to take on more complex tasks and have greater autonomy in their practice.

Nurse Practitioner vs Registered Nurse Salary

Nurse practitioners (NPs) earn higher salaries than registered nurses (RNs) due to their advanced education and expanded scope of practice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for RNs as of May 2020 was $75,330, while the median yearly wage for NPs was $117,670.

However, it’s important to note that salaries can vary depending on location, years of experience, and specialty. In some cases, experienced RNs in certain specialties may earn more than entry-level NPs. Additionally, salaries for both RNs and NPs can vary depending on the specific employer, with private practices and hospitals often offering higher salaries than government or nonprofit organizations.

Difference between Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant

While nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) share some similarities in their roles and responsibilities, there are several key differences between the two professions:

  1. Education: NPs are registered nurses (RNs) who have earned a master’s degree in nursing or a related field, while PAs have completed a master’s degree program in physician assistant studies. Both programs include extensive clinical training, but the NP program focuses more on nursing theory and practice, while the PA program is based on medical education.
  2. Scope of Practice: NPs and PAs have different practice areas, with NPs having a more holistic approach to patient care. NPs are licensed to diagnose and treat patients, order diagnostic tests, and prescribe medication. At the same time, PAs work under the supervision of a physician and may have more limited authority to make medical decisions.
  3. Specialization: NPs and PAs can choose to specialize in a specific area of medicine, but the types of fields available to each profession may differ. For example, NPs may specialize in pediatrics, oncology, or women’s health, while PAs may specialize in emergency medicine, surgery, or cardiology.
  4. Philosophy: NPs typically have a nursing philosophy, which focuses on holistic care and patient-centered approaches, while PAs have a medical philosophy, which emphasizes disease diagnosis and treatment.

In summary, while NPs and PAs have some similarities in their roles and responsibilities, there are several key differences in education, scope of practice, specialization, and philosophy that set the two professions apart. More insights can be read here: What is a Nurse Practitioner vs RN?

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner? | Master of Science in Nursing

The time it takes to become a nurse practitioner (NP) varies depending on several factors, including the individual’s prior education and experience, the type of NP program they choose, and their desired specialty.

In general, becoming an NP typically requires the following steps:

  • Obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree: This usually takes four years to complete.
  • Obtain a Registered Nurse (RN) license: This requires passing the NCLEX-RN exam and obtaining licensure in the state where you plan to practice. This process can take several weeks to several months.
  • Gain clinical experience: NPs typically need at least 1-2 years of experience working as an RN before applying to an NP program.
  • Earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree: These programs typically take 2-3 years to complete.
  • Obtain NP certification: This requires passing a national certification exam in your chosen specialty, which can take several months to prepare for.

Overall, the path to becoming an NP can take anywhere from 6-8 years, depending on the individual’s prior education and experience, the type of program they choose, and any additional requirements for certification or licensure.

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