What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse who has completed advanced education (a master's degree) and training in the diagnosis and management of medical conditions. Nurse practitioners provide a broad range of health care services. They provide the same care as provided by physicians. An NP can serve as a patient's regular health care provider. The core philosophy is individualized care. Nurse practitioners focus on patients' conditions as well as the effects of illness on the lives of the patients and their families. NPs make prevention, wellness, and patient education priorities. Because the profession is state regulated, care provided by NPs varies. A nurse practitioner's duties include the following:
  • Diagnosing and treating acute illnesses, infections, and injuries
  • Diagnosing, treating, and monitoring chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure)
  • Obtaining medical histories and conducting physical examinations
  • Ordering, performing, and interpreting diagnostic studies (e.g., lab tests, x-rays, EKGs)
  • Prescribing medications
  • Prescribing physical therapy and other rehabilitation treatments
  • Collaborating with physicians and other health professionals as needed, including providing referrals to specialists such as cardiologists, neurologists, opthamologists, endocrinologists, etc.
  • Counseling and educating patients on health behaviors, self-care skills, and treatment options
Nurse practitioners provide high-quality, cost-effective individualized care that is comparable to the health care provided by physicians. NPs practice in all states. Most NPs specialize in a particular field of medical care, and there are as many types of NPs as there are medical specialties.