10 Differences Between registered nurse and nurse practitioner

The Difference Between Registered Nurse and Nurse Practitioner

Are you considering a career in nursing but unsure about the different roles within the profession? This article will help clarify the distinctions between a registered nurse (RN) and a nurse practitioner (NP), including their definitions, examples, uses, and most importantly, the key differences between the two.

What is a Registered Nurse?

A registered nurse is a healthcare professional who has completed the necessary education and training to care for individuals, families, and communities in various healthcare settings. RNs play a critical role in providing direct patient care, promoting health education, and coordinating patient care plans.

Examples of Registered Nurse:

  • Emergency Room Nurse
  • Pediatric Nurse
  • Intensive Care Unit Nurse
  • Home Health Nurse
  • Operating Room Nurse

Uses of Registered Nurse:

  • Performing physical examinations and health assessments
  • Administering medications and treatments
  • Monitoring patient vital signs
  • Assisting in medical procedures
  • Providing patient education and support

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has completed additional education and training beyond that of an RN. NPs are qualified to provide primary and specialty healthcare services, diagnose illnesses, prescribe medications, and manage overall patient care.

Examples of Nurse Practitioner:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Geriatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Uses of Nurse Practitioner:

  • Performing medical examinations and comprehensive health assessments
  • Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions
  • Prescribing medications and therapies
  • Ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests
  • Providing counseling and preventive care

Differences Table:

Difference Area Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
Education and Training Completes a nursing diploma, associate degree in nursing (ADN), or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Completes a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
Scope of Practice Provides direct patient care under the supervision of physicians or nurse managers Has an advanced scope of practice, including diagnosing, prescribing medications, and managing patient care independently
Autonomy Works in collaboration with the healthcare team and follows established protocols and guidelines Operates with a higher level of autonomy and may have their own patient caseload
Specialty Areas May work in various specialties such as pediatrics, critical care, or surgical nursing Has the option to specialize in a particular area such as family practice, mental health, or women’s health
Patient Complexity Cares for patients across the lifespan with varying levels of complexity Manages complex and chronically ill patients with a focus on disease prevention and health promotion
Prescriptive Authority Does not have prescribing authority (except in certain states or under specific circumstances) Has the authority to prescribe medications and treatments as allowed by state regulations
Career Advancement May pursue advanced degrees or certifications to specialize in a particular area or advance to leadership positions Can further advance their career by obtaining a doctoral degree, becoming a nurse educator, or participating in research
Salary Generally earns a slightly lower salary compared to nurse practitioners Typically earns a higher salary due to advanced training and expanded scope of practice
Supervision Typically works under the supervision of physicians or nurse managers May work independently or collaborate with physicians depending on state regulations
Professional Organizations May join professional nursing organizations such as the American Nurses Association (ANA) or specialty-specific associations Can join specialized advanced practice nursing organizations such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or specific NP specialty associations


In conclusion, registered nurses and nurse practitioners both play crucial roles in the healthcare system, but there are notable differences in their education, scope of practice, autonomy, and salary. While RNs provide direct patient care and work under supervision, NPs have advanced training and can diagnose illnesses, prescribe medications, and manage overall patient care independently. Choosing between these two paths may depend on personal interests, career goals, and the desire for increased responsibility and autonomy in the healthcare profession.

People Also Ask:

Here are some common questions readers may have about registered nurses and nurse practitioners:

1. What is the main difference between a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner?

A registered nurse provides direct patient care under supervision, while a nurse practitioner has advanced training and can diagnose, prescribe medications, and manage patient care independently.

2. How much does a nurse practitioner make compared to a registered nurse?

Nurse practitioners generally earn a higher salary compared to registered nurses due to their advanced training and expanded scope of practice.

3. Can a registered nurse become a nurse practitioner?

Yes, registered nurses can pursue further education and training to become nurse practitioners. This typically involves completing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

4. What specialties can a nurse practitioner choose?

Nurse practitioners have the option to specialize in various areas such as family practice, mental health, acute care, geriatrics, or women’s health, among others.

5. Do nurse practitioners work independently?

Depending on state regulations and the specific scope of practice, nurse practitioners can work independently or collaborate with physicians and other healthcare professionals.

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