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What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has advanced clinical training and education. All nurse practitioners must have a master’s degree or doctorate, as well as licensing in the state in which they practice. Most states require nurse practitioners to pass a national certification exam and uphold rigorous standards to maintain certification. Areas of certification include the following specialties: adult health, family health, acute care, pediatrics, geriatrics, women’s health, psychiatry, and oncology.

Nurse practitioners often work in collaboration with a physician, but in some states they are licensed to practice independently.

What can a nurse practitioner do?

Nurse practitioners emphasize comprehensive assessment, disease prevention, health promotion, and clinical management. They perform physical exams, diagnose and treat common acute illnesses and injuries, manage common chronic problems (like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol), order and interpret diagnostic tests and labs, counsel on disease prevention, and prescribe medications.

Why nurse practitioners are important

With emphasis on disease prevention, health promotion, counseling, and education, nurse practitioners are vital in helping patients make healthier lifestyle choices, which results in fewer out-of-pocket and overall healthcare costs.

Nurse practitioners are also shown to provide high quality, low cost healthcare, and are a great solution to providing access to health care in areas of physician shortage.