Registered nurse vs. nurse practitioner

Registered nurse or nurse practitioner: What’s the difference and which should I see?

What is the difference between a registered nurse (with the credential R.N.) and a nurse practitioner (with the credential APRN)?

“Although they are both critical members of a care team, there are some key differences between these two,” said Claire M. Pfister, APRN, nurse practitioner with Norton Community Medical Associates.

What is a registered nurse?

A registered nurse has gone to school to become a nurse and has an associate degree in nursing and a Bachelor of Science in nursing. Registered nurses care for patients in a health care facility such as a hospital or nursing home. They work under the direction of a doctor and may focus on a kind of care such as heart or critical care.

Their job also might include:

Norton Community Medical Associates – La Clínica Preston

Agende una cita

  • Taking vital signs like blood pressure and pulse
  • Asking about the patient’s health history
  • Giving medicine
  • Using some machines to take tests
  • Working with the patient’s family on caring for the patient
  • Oversee nursing assistants
  • Patient education

What is a nurse practitioner (APRN credential)?

The APRN credential for a nurse practitioner stands for advanced practice registered nurse. This person has gone to school just like the registered nurse but has continued on for more education. A nurse practitioner might have a Master of Science in nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Nurse practitioners can do the same things registered nurses do, and more.

“Perhaps the biggest difference in these two is that nurse practitioners can prescribe medicine and guide treatment for patients,” Claire said. “A registered nurse cannot prescribe medicine or treat the patient independently from a doctor.”

A nurse practitioner’s job also might include:

  • Performing physical exams and patient observations
  • Asking for medical histories and symptoms
  • Creating patient care plans and contributing to existing ones
  • Ordering, administering, and analyzing diagnostic tests
  • Monitoring and operating medical machines
  • Diagnosing and treating illnesses
  • Giving medicine and other treatments
  • Talking to patients, their families and their caregivers

Both jobs are important to patients, but if you need care fast, consider seeing a nurse practitioner instead of waiting to see your regular doctor.

“Many times, it is easier to get an appointment with a nurse practitioner than it is to see a doctor,” Claire said. “They can offer the same level of care and, if needed, can refer you to another person such as a specialist.”

Schedule an Appointment

Select an appointment date and time from available spots listed below.