Advanced Practice Registered Nurse vs. Nurse Practitioner: Understanding Their Roles

Advanced Practice Nurse vs. Nurse Practitioner

The nursing profession offers a tremendous number of possibilities for specialization. The fact that many nurses can tap into their interests and find jobs that match their ideal patient populations, communities, and medical specialties, is possibly one of the most significant rewards of becoming a nurse.

However, some specializations require more training than others. The complications of the human body and the personal and social dynamics that play into patient outcomes all make providing top-quality care a serious endeavor that requires dedicated, enthusiastic professionals capable of meeting patients where they are. 

The titles for nurses who are filling some of these niches are advanced practice nurses (APRN) and nurse practitioners (NP). However, while an APRN is an umbrella term for several different kinds of specialized nurses, an NP is a specific category of APRNs. Understanding the differences between types of advanced practice registered nurse is key to making the career decision that is right for you.

Specializing in Nursing

Although most registered nurses have a broad, general set of healthcare skills, the dynamic nature of the field demands specialized roles.This can be particular to the population a nurse cares for, such as adults and pediatrics, or things like critical care or medical-surgical nursing. By specializing and earning credentials related to the specialization, nurses can make themselves more valuable to their institution and provide better outcomes for its patients. 

Creating an environment where the knowledge and skill of the nurse matches the patients they care for creates a care model called synergy. In this approach to healthcare, competencies are paired with appropriate populations and needs to empower staff and support better outcomes.

One way to specialize in nursing is to pursue an advanced degree to become an APRN. The pathway to becoming an advanced practice registered nurse vs. nurse practitioner have some overlap in education and experience, but specialization is often where the difference is most evident.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

An advanced practice registered nurse is a nurse who has gone on to complete graduate school, obtaining at least a master’s degree in nursing, and in many states they are board certified. Throughout their education and the certification process, APRNs focus on a particular specialty. There are several types of APRNs. Nurse Practitioners are a type of APRN. 

APRN degree pathways and board certification include the following:

  • Certified nurse-midwife (CNM)
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
  • Nurse practitioner (NP)

The role of APRNs varies greatly, from caring for women and families for pregnancy and gynecological concerns as a CNM or WHNP, to providing anesthesia as a CRNA, or working with clients in other specific ways in education or public health as a CNS. NPs can have a variety of specialties too.  Some APRN roles garner significantly more income than others.

APRNs are a critical part of the healthcare infrastructure, and fill very specific roles that are critical to achieving good patient outcomes. They can also offer highly personalized services to patients that would be otherwise unavailable in healthcare settings.

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are a type of APRN. They also must obtain a graduate degree in nursing with a specific specialty to practice.
Examples of NP specializations are:

  • Family nurse practitioner (FNP)
  • Neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP)
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP)
  • Adult-gerontological nurse practitioner (AGNP)
  • Psychiatric mental-health nurse practitioner (PMHNP)
  • Women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP)
  • Emergency medicine nurse practitioner (ENP)

When thinking about specialization for an advanced practice registered nurse role, it’s important to consider the desired patient population and practice environment. Certified nurse-midwives and nurse anesthetists may work in higher acuity settings and provide around the clock care, as compared to an office-based family nurse practitioner or pediatric nurse practitioner.  

Understanding the Roles of an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse vs. Nurse Practitioner

The possibilities for advancing your knowledge, skills, and practice within a professional nursing career are hard to beat. Becoming an APRN or NP are both amazing options for nurses, but it’s important to find a role that fits you. Working towards your ideal career path in specialized nursing begins with understanding the difference between the two.

As you’re exploring the APRN specialties you’re going to need a lot of information and education along the way. This means continuing education is critical for achieving your dream and staying up to date on best practices so you can keep providing the best care possible. 

Premiere’s Unlimited Nursing CEU Subscription is the perfect resource to support all your specialization, compliance, and licensing needs as you explore the deeper field of professional nursing. With total access to all our expert-developed courses, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the game from the convenience of any screen, anywhere your career takes you.

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