What is a Nurse Practitioner?


A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse with advanced academic and clinical experience, which enables him or her to diagnose and manage most common and many chronic illnesses, either independently or as part of a health care team.  A nurse practitioner provides care previously offered only by physicians and in most states has the ability to prescribe medications.  Working in collaboration with a physician, a nurse practitioner provides high-quality, cost-effective and individualized care for the lifespan of patient's special needs.


NP's focus largely on health maintenance, disease prevention, counseling and patient education in a wide variety of settings.  With a strong emphasis on primary care, nurse practitioners are employed within several specialties, including neonatology, nurse-midwifery, pediatrics, school health, family and adult health, women's health, mental health, home care, geriatrics and acute care.

Nurse practitioners are educated through programs that grant a master's degree.  A registered nurse is recommended to have extensive clinical experience before applying to a nurse practitioner program.  An intensive preceptorship under the direct supervision of a physician or an experienced nurse practitioner, as well as instruction in nursing theory, are key components to most NP programs.