Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Math and Science Careers: Nurses vs Nurse Practitioners

With the growth of online schools and resources to learn about high demand jobs, I think it's important to highlight different careers that our students might be interested in. This guest post is the first in what hopefully will be a series.

The Difference between Nurses and Nurse Practitioners

They say a rose is a rose is a rose, but the same does not apply to a nurse – a nurse is not just a nurse. In fact, there are so many different layers to nursing that it’s not easy to analyze this profession on the surface alone. There are various advanced degrees in nursing that allow nurses to be much more than just primary care providers to patients.

A registered nurse or an RN is qualified to administer medication to patients, teach nursing, be in charge of other nurses and be responsible for various other tasks in healthcare settings after completing two years of nursing school and passing a licensure examination. He or she is higher up in the chain of command than a CNA or a certified nursing assistant (who are not nurses but nursing assistants who require a one year diploma) and an LPN or licensed practical nurse (who require a one-year degree and a licensure exam).

A nurse practitioner on the other hand is required to hold either a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing. He or she is different from a holder of a MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) degree in that they are supposed to undergo additional training in the diagnosis and management of various medical conditions so that they’re able to provide a wide range of healthcare services. Nurse practitioners are allowed to provide primary care to patients under the supervision of physicians. Some of them are even allowed to prescribe medication under the guidance of a doctor. Nurse practitioners have additional training in a specialty like primary, family or pediatric care. NPs are also known as advance practice nurses or APNs.

Nurse practitioners are sought after in rural areas where doctors are not too keen on setting up primary care practices. They are responsible for diagnosing illness and disease and for providing basic care. While some people equate clinical nurse specialists with nurse practitioners, the two have completely different roles. A clinical nurse specialist usually has an advanced degree in nursing and is usually designated to work with other nurses to advance their nursing or to provide clinical expertise to improve levels of patient care when changes are introduced to the healthcare system. A nurse practitioner can however perform certain tasks and carry out certain functions that cannot be performed by clinical nurse specialists.

In general, nurse practitioners are entrusted with much more responsibility and autonomy than registered nurses.

This guest article was written by Adrienne Carlson, who regularly writes on the topic of nurse practitioner schools. Adrienne welcomes your comments and questions at her email address: adrienne.carlson1@gmail.com.