The nursing field contains several different specialties. Nurses have a chance to develop skills in other areas by switching positions. Many nurses begin as Registered Nurses (RNs) and then become Nurse Practitioners (NPs) as a natural part of professional development.
Though there are some overlaps, these two positions are different.
In this blog, we will explore the following:
- What are the job duties of a nurse practitioner?
- What are the job duties of a registered nurse?
- Similarities between both roles
- Differences between both roles
- Nurse practitioner vs. RN: How to choose the right path for you
What are the job duties of a nurse practitioner?
Nurse practitioners perform many of the same duties that a physician would do. They visit patients, diagnose and create treatment plans. Nurse practitioners also work with patients who have chronic conditions to help manage the situation and make necessary changes.
Additional duties involve:
- Managing other nurses and staff within the clinic
- Ordering diagnostic tests for patients
- Prescribing medicine to patients
- Administer routine and detailed examinations
- Explaining complicated medical and treatment plans to patients and family
- Analyzing tests results to discover causes for symptoms
- Collect information and samples from patients
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What are the job duties of a registered nurse?
Registered nurses act as primary caregivers to patients. They perform the following duties:
- Administer IV medications
- Complete admission assessments
- Develop nursing care plans
- Take verbal orders from a doctor or nurse practitioner
- Provide blood products
- Pronounce time of death in long-term care or hospice facilities (only some states allow RNs to do this)
- Access or flush PICC lines, subcutaneous ports, or central lines
- Administer insulin drips, cardiac medication drips, or total parenteral nutrition
- Give chemotherapy medications or administer dialysis
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Similarities between both roles
RNs and NPs both share an ability to specialize and work in diverse environments.
RNs and NPs assist patients in medical settings such as hospitals, urgent care clinics, or long-term care facilities. And in both roles, the nurses work directly with the patient and their families. However, RNs typically work in more types of settings than NPs.
Most nurse practitioners find themselves in a clinical setting while there are some registered nurses who work on cruise ships.
Differences between both roles
There’s a significant pay jump from the RN to NP position. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2020, the average pay for registered nurses was $80,010, while nurse practitioners’ earned an average of $117,670 per year.
You may wonder why there’s such a significant difference. The reason why nurse practitioners make more money than registered nurses is because they have an advanced degree.
Also, a nurse practitioner’s role is more expansive than that of a registered nurse. The nurse practitioner has much more responsibility and autonomy than the registered nurse. In some states, nurse practitioners work autonomously and have their own practices.
Below is a map of the average nurse practitioner and registered nurses salaries for every state.
Average Nurse Practitioner Salary by State
Average Registered Nurse Salary by State
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One of the main differences between an RN and an NP is their level of education. The nurse practitioner role requires an advanced degree. Most nurse practitioners have either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
Both roles require clinical training. RNs generally need at least 400 hours of clinical experience. NPs typically need about 500 or more hours.
RNs and nurse practitioners also take continuing education courses to retain licensing.
Continuing Education Requirements
Most nurses have to complete continuing education units (CEUs) in order to maintain their licenses. This is no different for the nurse practitioner or registered nurse roles. Registered nurses continuing education requirements depend on their state and specialty.
All nurse practitioners have to complete CEUs. They must renew their license every five years with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. To renew, nurse practitioners need to accrue 1,000 clinical hours since their last renewal along with 75 contact hours of CEU.
Licensure and Certification
Registered nurses need to receive licensure in the state that they live in to practice. The certification standards differ depending on the state, however, for the most part there are a few basic requirements for certification.
- Completion of an associates or bachelors degree at an accredited institution
- Background check
- Passing grade on NCLEX exam
One a registered nurse receives their licensure, they can obtain certification in the specialty of their choice.
For the nurse practitioner role, licensure requirements are mostly the same as the RN. However, the nurse practitioner needs to receive their certification through either the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
NP vs. RN: How to choose the right path for you
Now that you know the similarities and differences between both roles, you have the information you need to make a sound decision. Both positions offer their own benefits and drawbacks. Despite the difference in salary for the nurse practitioner position, it comes with more responsibility, and in some situations, complete autonomy.
More responsibility can lead to more significant burnout for nurses. Accordingly, the registered nurse role might seem less stressful in scope. On the other hand, some people excel in leadership roles with greater responsibility. It depends on the person.
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Frequently Asked Questions
A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse. The scope and authority granted to a nurse practitioner is greater than that of a registered nurse. This is why nurse practitioners get paid more than registered nurses.
The main difference between a RN and NP is the scope of practice. Nurse practitioners are given much more autonomy. In some states, nurse practitioners are able to work independently and have their own offices. Conversely, registered nurses work under a clinician such as a doctor or nurse practitioner.
Nurse practitioners make more than registered nurses because of their autonomy. They work in a leadership/supervisory role. Additionally, the difference in their pay is due to the education differences. Nurse practitioners have to complete at least a master’s degree whereas registered nurses only need at minimum to complete an Associates Degree in Nursing.
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