As of 2022, there were more than 355,000 nurse practitioners licensed in the United States alone. These highly skilled professionals are an indispensable part of our health care system, providing a wide range of patient care across various health care settings. However, despite their vital role, many people are still unaware of the scope of work that nurse practitioners perform and what their typical workday looks like. So, here’s a closer look at this essential health care profession.
What Is a Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse practitioners, also known as advanced practice registered nurses, are registered nurses with additional education and clinical training. They either have a master's or doctoral degree in nursing and are licensed to diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries, as well as prescribe medicine. Nurse practitioners can specialize in various areas, such as adult gerontology, neonatal care, pediatrics, psychiatry and women’s health.
What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?
According to Carol Savrin, the head of the nurse practitioner program at Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, nurse practitioners typically provide a full range of primary, acute and specialty health care services, including:
- Ordering, performing and interpreting diagnostic tests such as lab work and X-rays.
- Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, infections and injuries.
- Prescribing medications and other treatments.
- Managing patients' overall care.
- Educating patients on disease prevention and positive health and lifestyle choices.
It’s important to note that a nurse practitioner’s typical workday can often vary based on their specialty and the health care setting. Kina Jackson, an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner who works in outpatient clinic settings, explains that her workday generally involves “reviewing the day's schedule and patient charts, conducting patient visits, answering patient messages or calls and occasionally attending meetings.” However, for emergency nurse practitioners who work in the ER, their duties could range from performing triage to stabilizing patients with severe injuries – much different than what Jackson’s workday looks like.