What Is the Difference Between a Registered Nurse (RN) and a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?
While both Nurse Practitioners and Registered Nurses provide direct patient care to patients, the most notable differences are the education requirements and their scope of practice. Below is a brief overview of the differences between an RN and an NP.
- A Registered Nurse has earned either an Associate's Degree or a Bachelor's Degree
- An RN must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN)
- RNs typically do not have a specialization but may have additional knowledge in a specific area through experience and are able to move freely between different RN career paths such as ER, critical care, med/surg, etc.
- The majority of RNs are found in a hospital or acute care setting; however, they can be found in clinics, offices, hospitals, home care agencies, skilled nursing facilities, insurance agencies and community services
- Operate under the direction of an MD or in some instances an NP or PA
- A Nurse Practitioner has earned at least a Master's Degree in Nursing
- The Master's program has different specialties such as geriatric, primary care, maternal child health, psychiatric etc. and an NP must pick a track to study for successful completion of the program
- An NP must pass the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners National Certificate Exam
- Typically, the NP has worked previously as an RN and has accrued sufficient experience to be accepted into an NP program
- Nurse Practitioners specialized in a specific area and can see their own patients, diagnose, treat illnesses and prescribe medications
- State by state scope varies for NPs, some need an MD to sign off on all orders while in others the NP has more autonomy
- The majority of NPs are found in clinic settings; however, they can also be found in a variety of medical settings similar to an RN
Regarding pay, an NP can expect to make somewhere around $15,000-$40,000 a year more than an RN due to their higher level of education and expertise