Scope of Practice for Nurse Practitioners

Professional Role

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are licensed, independent practitioners who practice in ambulatory, acute and long-term care as primary and/or specialty care providers. NPs assess, diagnose, treat and manage acute episodic and chronic illnesses. NPs are experts in health promotion and disease prevention. They order, conduct, supervise, and interpret diagnostic and laboratory tests; prescribe pharmacological agents and non-pharmacologic therapies; and teach and counsel patients, among other services.

As licensed, independent clinicians, NPs practice autonomously and in coordination with health care professionals and other individuals. They may serve as health care researchers, interdisciplinary consultants and patient advocates. NPs provide a wide range of health care services to individuals, families, groups and communities.


NPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who obtain graduate education, post-master’s certificates and doctoral degrees. Educational preparation provides NPs with specialized knowledge and clinical competency, which enable them to practice in various health care settings, make differential diagnoses, manage and initiate treatment plans and prescribe medications and treatment. National NP education program accreditation requirements and competency-based standards ensure that NPs are equipped to provide safe, high-quality patient care from the point of graduation. Clinical competency and professional development are hallmarks of NP education.


The autonomous nature of NP practice requires accountability to the public for the delivery of high-quality health care. NP accountability is consistent with an ethical code of conduct, national certification, periodic peer review, clinical outcome evaluation and evidence of continued professional development.


The patient-centered nature of the NP role requires a career-long commitment to meet the evolving needs of society and advances in health care science. NPs are responsible to the public and adaptable to changes in health care. As leaders in health care, NPs combine the roles of provider, mentor, educator, researcher and administrator. NPs take responsibility for continued professional development, involvement in professional organizations and participation in health policy activities at the local, state, national and international levels. Five decades of research affirms that NPs provide safe, high-quality care.

© American Association of Nurse Practitioners 1993
Revised 1998, 2002, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2015
Reviewed and revised by the AANP Fellows at the Winter 2015 Meeting

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