Difference Between a Registered Nurse and Nurse Practitioner

Both nurses and nurse practitioners play vital roles in the health care industry, specializing in the care of patients, treatment and the education of patients and their families.

The term “nurse” covers many types of medical care duties. These professionals perform various tasks and work in a variety of health care settings, from doctor’s offices to hospitals, from intensive care units to nursing homes and others.

There are several types of nurses. They can be distinguished according to the education they obtained, as well as the focus of their studies. While all of them work with patients, their responsibilities and job descriptions vary depending on the level of education they have completed. Two types of nurses recognized in the medical community are Registered Nurses (RNs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs). The differences between the two lie in the required education and their scope of responsibilities.

Registered Nurses

Registered Nurses or RNs are licensed medical professionals. Registered nurses carry out various duties in the care of patients, including explaining their medical conditions to patients; administering medications as part of the patient’s treatment plan; monitoring the patient’s vital signs; maintaining the patient’s health records; recording observations for the doctors’ assessment; advising and helping patients; and providing information to families relevant to the loved ones’ status and progress. They work in conjunction with physicians and other health care providers in the evaluation, planning and implementation of nursing care treatment for patients, whether they are sick or injured. Registered nurses can find work in most areas of the health care industry, whether in private facilities or public health settings.

Prospective nurses can choose from three different avenues in order to achieve their goal. The first is to pursue an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). This will allow the candidate to gain an entry-level position as a registered nurse. Another option is to enter a diploma program that is usually administered by hospitals. This route involves both classroom and clinical training. The ADN and diploma programs take two to three years to complete.

The last choice open to aspiring nurses is to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, which lasts four years. This degree program combines general education and humanities courses with nursing courses and allows graduates to enter advanced nursing degree programs. These three options qualify graduates for the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX, which they must pass to obtain mandatory licensure and become registered.

Nurse Practitioner


The major difference between an RN and an NP is the degree of autonomy that nurse practitioners are granted. In many states, nurse practitioners are allowed to diagnose and treat patients without the guidance of a physician. Unlike registered nurses, advanced practice nurses such as nurse practitioners are able to prescribe medications and carry out some duties such as order and perform diagnostic tests, treat chronic conditions such as diabetes and infections and educating patients on health promotion and disease prevention.

In addition to their bachelor’s degree, these professionals must have earned a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or higher. All candidates are required to have at least one year of experience working as a registered nurse before applying to a MSN degree program. The master’s degree in nursing usually takes two years to complete.