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What's a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?

Discover why Americans Make More Than 1.06 billion Visits to NPs Each Year

NPs are quickly becoming the health partner of choice for millions of Americans. As clinicians that blend clinical expertise in diagnosing and treating health conditions with an added emphasis on disease prevention and health management, NPs bring a comprehensive perspective and personal touch to health care.

  • Education and Training

    All NPs must complete a master's or doctoral degree program and have advanced clinical training beyond their initial professional registered nurse (RN) preparation. Didactic and clinical courses prepare nurses with specialized knowledge and clinical competency to practice in primary care, acute care and long-term health care settings.

  • Qualifications

    To be recognized as expert health care providers and ensure the highest quality of care, NPs undergo rigorous national certification, periodic peer review, clinical outcome evaluations and adhere to a code for ethical practices. Self-directed continued learning and professional development is also essential to maintaining clinical competency.

    Additionally, to promote quality health care and improve clinical outcomes, NPs lead and participate in both professional and lay health care forums, conduct research and apply findings to clinical practice.

  • License and Practice Locations

    NPs are licensed in all states and the District of Columbia, and they practice under the rules and regulations of the state in which they are licensed. They provide high-quality care in rural, urban and suburban communities and in many types of settings, including clinics, hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care sites, private physician or NP practices, nursing homes, schools, colleges and public health departments.

  • Services

    Autonomously and in collaboration with health care professionals and other individuals, NPs provide a full range of primary, acute and specialty health care services, including:

    • Ordering, performing and interpreting diagnostic tests such as lab work and x-rays.
    • Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, infections and injuries.
    • Prescribing medications and other treatments.
    • Managing patients' overall care.
    • Counseling.
    • Educating patients on disease prevention and positive health and lifestyle choices.

    Specialty areas include:

    • Acute Care.
    • Adult Health.
    • Family Health.
    • Gerontology Health.
    • Neonatal Health.
    • Oncology.
    • Pediatric/Child Health.
    • Psychiatric/Mental Health.
    • Women's Health.

    Sub-specialty areas include:

    • Allergy and Immunology.
    • Cardiovascular.
    • Dermatology.
    • Emergency.
    • Endocrinology.
    • Gastroenterology.
    • Hematology and Oncology.
    • Neurology.
    • Occupational Health.
    • Orthopedics.
    • Pulmonology and Respiratory.
    • Sports Medicine.
    • Urology.
  • Unique Approach

    What sets NPs apart from other health care providers is their unique emphasis on the health and well-being of the whole person. With a focus on health promotion, disease prevention and health education and counseling, NPs guide patients in making smarter health and lifestyle choices, which in turn can lower patients' out-of-pocket costs.

  • Why NPs are Important
    • NP Credibility: NPs are more than just health care providers; they are mentors, educators, researchers and administrators. Their involvement in professional organizations and participation in health policy activities at the local, state, national and international levels helps to advance the role of the NP and ensure that professional standards are maintained.
    • Lower Health Care Costs: By providing high-quality care and counseling, NPs can lower the cost of health care for patients. For example, patients who see NPs as their primary care provider often have fewer emergency room visits, shorter hospital stays and lower medication costs.
    • Patient Satisfaction: With more than 1.06 billion visits made to NPs each year, patients report an extremely high level of satisfaction with the care they receive.
    • Primary Care Shortage Solution: By offering high-quality, cost-effective, patient-centered health care, NPs provide more than 385,000 solutions to the primary care shortage facing America today.

To learn how NPs got their start, visit AANP's Historical Timeline.