What’s the Difference Between a Registered Nurse vs Nurse Practitioner

registered nurse vs nurse practitioner

Most people don’t know the difference between registered nurses and nurse practitioners. They mistakenly believe that these professions are one in the same.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth! There are many things that make registered nurses and nurse practitioners different. From their education levels to their salaries, there are so many differences that set the two medical professions apart.

Are you planning on entering the medical field? Or are you simply planning on seeking medical services soon? You should understand the registered nurse vs nurse practitioner differences. It will clear up any confusion you might have about what the two kinds of nurses are capable of doing.

Here are just a few of the things that set registered nurses and nurse practitioners apart.

Education Levels

If you ever see a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner walking side by side in a hospital setting, you might mistake one for the other. After all, they both tend to wear the same kinds of scrubs when they’re at work. Click for more examples of what nurses might look like when they’re walking around.

But one of the first things that makes them different is their education levels. Registered nurses don’t have the same level of education as nurse practitioners.

To become a registered nurse, you need to attend nursing school or obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing. It takes about four years for a person to become a registered nurse.

The same can’t be said for nurse practitioners. To become a nurse practitioner, a person needs to obtain a master’s degree in nursing and undergo formal training to assume an advanced role in a hospital or other medical facility.

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There are many registered nurses who go on to become nurse practitioners throughout the course of their careers. Once they’ve worked as registered nurses, they go back to school to get master’s degrees and then assume the role of nurse practitioner.

But as you can see, the education level of a registered nurse vs nurse practitioner is one of their key differences. Nurse practitioners have spent a lot more time studying about nursing in school. This is what gives them the chance to work a lot more closely with their patients.

Work Responsibilities

Nurse practitioners hold master’s degrees and have an advanced understanding of nursing. So they’re typically given a lot more responsibilities when they’re working.

A nurse practitioner is allowed to prescribe medications to patients and perform many of the medical duties that are usually performed by doctors. They’re also allowed to examine patients and dish out diagnoses before recommending treatments. They are, in a lot of ways, equipped to handle the responsibilities that fall on doctors.

The same cannot be said for registered nurses. While registered nurses can work with patients and provide care to keep them comfortable, they’re not allowed to prescribe medications to them. They’re also not allowed to diagnose patients with illnesses or recommend treatments.

In most hospitals, registered nurses will work under the direction of doctors when treating patients. They will take orders from doctors rather than giving out orders on their own. This makes their work days a lot different from the work days of nurse practitioners.

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Work Environments

If you walk through any hospital in the U.S., you’re likely to see both registered nurses and nurse practitioners working. Both can work in hospital settings if they choose to do it.

But registered nurses are a bit more limited when it comes to branching out from hospitals and working in other environments. That’s something that nurse practitioners won’t often face.

You’ll find nurse practitioners working in many places outside of hospitals. For example, some nurse practitioners will choose to work in private medical practices. Others will find work in community clinics or nonprofits. This allows them to maintain regular business hours while practicing medicine.

There are some registered nurses who work in surgical clinics and private doctors’ offices. But for the most part, they tend to work at hospitals and larger medical facilities. They also tend to take on shifts at odd hours depending upon when their services are needed most.

The freedom that nurse practitioners enjoy when it comes to finding work is something that often inspires registered nurses to go back to school. They want to be able to have the flexibility to look for work outside of hospital settings.

Salary Expectations

One of the biggest differences between registered nurses and nurse practitioners is the salaries they both bring in. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners both make good salaries. But nurse practitioners tend to make a lot more money than registered nurses.

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses bring in a median annual salary of just over $68,000. Nurse practitioners, meanwhile, bring in a median annual salary of more than $100,000. There is a huge financial gap that exists between registered nurse vs nurse practitioner.

The salary difference exists because of the responsibilities put on nurse practitioners. They’re asked to do a lot more than registered nurses on the job. And as a result, they’re paid more at most places.

Salary is another reason why many registered nurses decide to return to school to become nurse practitioners. Making the decision to do so is often very lucrative. It allows them to be even more fulfilled by their job once they start working as a nurse practitioner.

Understand the Differences Between Registered Nurse Vs Nurse Practitioner

Now that you know the differences between a registered nurse vs nurse practitioner, you know why the two types of nurses don’t usually want to be clumped together. You also know why some nurses seem to have more responsibilities than others when they’re at work.

Are you thinking about getting into nursing yourself? Consider the differences between registered nurses and nurse practitioners first. It will help you decide which nursing path would be the right one for you.

Read our blog to learn about a variety of other topics outside the world of nursing.