RN vs. NP: Comparing Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners

nurses both RN and NP pictured
Written by
Karin Zonneveld
December 1, 2022

What is an RN, and What is an NP?

An RN is a registered nurse. An RN performs specific functions within a clinic, hospital, academic, or even a relaxation setting (they could be working in a hotel, sports event, yacht, etc.). An NP is a nurse practitioner with a nursing job much more independent than an RN. An NP uses their skills to prescribe and diagnose and may even have their own practice, given their more advanced skills. Nurse practitioners have the advantage of having studied more than RNs and, therefore, can take on more responsibilities, like physicians.

 What's the Difference Between an RN and an NP?

In general, the NP scope of practice is summarized as follows:

  • Deliver nursing services as primary care providers, but in a specialized manner.
  • Support the patient in improving their health in active consultation with the patient.
  • Specialize, as is common in NPs, in areas such as geriatric, pediatric, psychiatric, or mental health medicine.
  • Communicate with the patient and family to get information about complex diseases.
  • Prescribe medications to patients, diagnose, and authorize treatment.
  • Order tests and takes samples to diagnose disease. Manage all nurses in the workplace, clinic, hospital, or healthcare facility.

As one can see, RNs have a similar scope of practice but have fewer responsibilities and do not have to make as many decisions on their own. On the other hand, an NP can create more significant decisions concerning the patient and have more knowledge about medicine and diagnostic skills due to the clinical practice they undertake to become nurse practitioners.

One more difference is the average salary for nurse practitioners and RNs. The average annual salary for an NP is approximately $118,040. On the other hand, for RNs, the average salary is usually estimated at $87,750 per year. This difference is mainly because NPs have a higher degree of training and responsibilities. NPs typically have a master's degree or advanced studies, including a DNP (doctor of nursing practice), to be able to take care of the patients they see clinically, and given they studied more and can tend to more complicated diseases, they receive better compensations.

Some similarities between nurse practitioners and registered nurses are their ability to adapt to working in different clinical and hospital settings and interacting directly with patients and their families.

Some differences between nurse practitioners and registered nurses are the salaries, as already mentioned, and the role of autonomy and greater responsibility implied by nurse practitioners.

3 Qualities Of a Good Nurse Practitioner:

  1. Self-motivation and resourcefulness. To perform the jobs themselves, nurse practitioners will need the willpower and the ability to manage their practices, resources, and patients themselves.
  2. Attention to detail. A nurse practitioner must note all the details necessary to make a good diagnosis while not overlooking anything that could save a patient's life or help lead to a better outcome.
  3. Advanced listening skills. Nurse practitioners must communicate as effectively with their patients as possible, so they must be able to listen and demonstrate empathy and listening levels to know what to do.

Nurse practitioner jobs often involve administration or doing the work themselves. In contrast, RN jobs require fewer tasks and staff, so the emphasis tends to be more clinical. Generally, all of these qualities are considered to make an excellent registered nurse, but self-motivation and leadership are essential to an exemplary nurse practitioner.

It is essential to highlight the importance of both RNs and nurse practitioners having an active collaboration with physicians and the rest of the healthcare team in charge of a patient. It has been demonstrated that this active collaboration reduces risks for patients, reduces the incidence of errors, improves the quality processes in the healthcare facility or hospital where it is applied, and increases the safety of both the patient and the staff, who can be registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, etc.

Nurse and physician collaboration applies to all types of settings and many times. However, a nurse practitioner can prescribe medications to their patients, but they need the cooperation of a physician for different assessments. In the same way, physicians understand that the collaboration of nurses is essential to achieve the goal of multidisciplinary support to the patient and improve the diseases they suffer more effectively.

Regardless of their path, whether registered nurses or nurse practitioners, both deserve applause for the endless road of dedication they travel daily. Thanks to nurses, we can enjoy health, and their profession is one of the noblest in existence.

Blog published on:
December 1, 2022

Meet Karin, a dietitian and contributing copywriter for Nursa, who is passionate about compassion in healthcare, nutrition, and raising awareness and support for people with autism.

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