What is a Nurse Practitioner?

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse who has gone to graduate school to obtain a master’s or doctoral-level degree from a nationally accredited NP program. Because of the advanced education required to become an NP, these clinicians are considered advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). After graduating, NPs must meet national certification requirements to become recognized as a board-certified practitioner.

As advanced practice nurses with graduate level education as well as clinical training, NPs are qualified to assess, diagnose, and treat patients with both acute and chronic illnesses while emphasizing education and preventative health measures for both individuals and families. In addition, NPs practice in a variety of settings, including (but not limited to): clinics, hospitals, surgical centers, and private practices.  


After World War II, the US faced a shortage of primary care physicians. Loretta Ford and Henry Silver, a nurse and a physician, started the first training program for nurse practitioners in 1965 at the University of Colorado. Their program was targeted to focus on health promotion, disease prevention, and family health. Ultimately, the goal of the program was to increase the amount of primary care providers in the nation. Ford recognized the physician shortage in primary care, and saw the potential for nursing to help meet the demand. Since then, there have been over 200 NP programs created nationwide.


A career as an NP is unique and exciting because there are endless opportunities available in various clinical specialties. Historically, NPs have been trained to practice in primary care settings. However, there have been an increasing number of specialized NP programs, including:

  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP)
  • Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)

Scope of Practice

When it comes to a nurse practitioner’s scope of practice, it’s important to be familiar with your state’s legislation. NPs practice autonomously or in collaboration with other health professionals based on the regulations of the state where the NP is practicing. On the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) website, you can find out what your state’s regulations are for NP practice:


Get Started

Becoming an NP is a fulfilling career with a multitude of opportunities.  If you’re interested in starting or developing your NP career, talk to us!