What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse with advanced academic and clinical education and experience who is qualified to meet the majority of patients' health care needs in hospital and outpatient settings. 

Nurse Practitioners:

  • Can be a primary care provider or provide specialty care
  • Formulate patient diagnosis and treatment plans
  • Order diagnostic tests and prescribe medications
  • Take the “whole person” into account, not just the immediate ailment
  • Concentrate on patient-centered care

How are NPs different from physicians assistants (PAs)?

While NPs and PAs often appear to perform similar functions, there are important distinctions between these health care professionals.

Some physician assistants come to their education with a background in health care, but it is not a requirement. PAs work under the supervision of a physician. Rather than focusing on a specialty patient population, the PA certification process includes education that introduces the provider to the health care system and provides general education about the variety of skills needed for the PA to manage different types of patients.

Nurse practitioners have initial training and licensure as a registered nurse before pursuing advanced education and training. NPs may treat patients independently or in collaboration with a physician. All NPs in Maryland are masters-prepared providers. Nurse practitioner programs provide specialized education in a variety of clinical areas, providing in-depth education about a particular specialty.

What is the education of a nurse practitioner?

A Master's degree is required to sit for a national certification examination, which is mandatory for practice in the state of Maryland. The advanced education of the nurse practitioner includes both classroom education and over 500 hours of clinical training in the hospital or office setting.

What is the nurse practitioners' relationship with physicians?

NPs practice in collaboration with a physician. This means that every patient cared for by a nurse practitioner has a team of providers considering the case and discussing treatment strategies.

  • Acute care nurse practitioners work collaboratively with their physician colleagues in the hospital setting
  • Pediatric nurse practitioners see patients in the hospital setting or in the outpatient office.
  • Adult, family and geriatric NPs may treat patients in the outpatient setting or nursing home in conjunction with their collaborating physician.
  • Psychiatric NPs manage patients with behavioral disorders in a variety of settings.

Can anyone see a Nurse Practitioner?

Yes. People interested in being treated by a NP can ask their current health care provider if a NP works in that office, and ask for an appointment to meet the NP.