What Is a Nurse Practitioner and What Do They Do?

For millions of Americans, the health provider of choice is quickly becoming a nurse practitioner (NP). They provide access to high-quality health care by blending years of clinical expertise along with extensive medical training. They diagnose and treat health conditions, manage care & promote disease prevention. In today’s healthcare industry, these professionals bring a much-needed personal touch and a holistic perspective.

In most states, NPs practice independently & provide a wide range of specialties. These can include primary care, specialty care, and acute care services.

As far as overall outcomes & quality measures, when practicing within their scope of practice, doctors and NPs are considered comparable. Depending on the state in which a NP works, they may be required to work in collaboration with a physician for practice or prescriptive authority.

A major focus of today’s NPs is to promote health and well-being for each individual, as well as focusing on the prevention of diseases. Let us take a closer look at NPs, what they do in general, and what they can do for you, as a patient. We’ll also explore some of the specialties in which you may find a NP.

The Definition of a Nurse Practitioner

By providing direct patient care, a NP is often responsible for specialty, primary, and urgent care to a particular population of individuals. (i.e., children, geriatrics, etc.)  NPs not only provide exceptional patient experiences but can positively affect a patient’s overall life. A NP will be a crucial part of your healthcare team.

NPs may:

  • Own & operate a medical clinic
  • Manage staff members (such as RNs)
  • Perform minor medical & surgical procedures
  • Create treatment plans
  • Assess & observe patients
  • Order & interpret lab tests
  • Collect patient samples and data
  • Record and track the medical histories of patients
  • Create & manage treatment plans in combination with a professional healthcare team

Multiple settings in which NPs can work offer today’s NPs an impressive selection. These settings can include the following:

  • Neurology
  • Dermatology
  • Cardiology
  • Surgery
  • Gynecology
  • Pediatrics
  • Dermatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • General and Family Practice
  • Anesthesiology and more

What do you need to become a NP? At the very least you’ll need the following:

  • Obtain a BSN and a MSN
  • Perform clinical research
  • Pass certification exams
  • Within the states in which you choose to practice, apply for licensure

To take on leadership or research roles as a NP, one may pursue a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) or PhD (Doctor of Philosophy).

Salaries for NPs can vary, depending on the field in which they choose to work, the state they work in, and much more. The median hourly wage for this position, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was roughly $58 (as of 2022). In general, however, for a full-time NP, the median base salary was approximately $120,680.

According to the American Association of NPs:

  • The average NP age is around 49 years.
  • Many have been in practice for an average of 11 years.
  • At 69.7%, family practice NP is the most common area of practice.

Where do Nurse Practitioners Work?

As stated above, there are many settings & locations in which today’s NPs can function. Some of these can include the following:

  • Private practice offices
  • Patient homes (home healthcare agencies)
  • Birthing centers
  • College clinics and other schools
  • Community clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Health departments
  • Nursing homes

What can Nurse Practitioners do for Patients?

Assess and Diagnose Medical Conditions

In areas of acute care, cardiac medicine, family medicine, and more, NPs evaluate and diagnose medical conditions. To do so, and manage a patient’s overall care, they rely on lab work, x-rays, and other diagnostic tests and tools. In addition to ordering and interpreting any necessary tests, as well as diagnosing and treating a patient, they may also provide education and counseling, and write prescriptions.

Order and Interpret Medical Diagnostic Tests

NPs perform medical examinations & order appropriate medical diagnostic testing, such as x-rays, laboratory studies, EKGs, and so much more. They may also request and perform follow-up visits. In some cases, a shorter wait time can be experienced by having a NP test for, diagnose, and treat a condition as opposed to waiting for an appointment with a physician.

Prescribe Medications

In all fifty states, NPs can prescribe medications like narcotics & antibiotics. Each state’s practice authority, however, will determine whether physician supervision is necessary for the task.

Collaborate with Other Medical Services Providers

To establish a working relationship between a physician and nurse practitioner, a contract must be established. This is referred to as a collaborative practice agreement.

NP Specialized Practice Areas


NPs working in the field of psychiatry can diagnose and treat depression, anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, as well as all other behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric disorders.


If a nurse practitioner works in the field of gerontology, they will conduct physicals on geriatric patients. Following the physical, a diagnosis will be made, and a care plan devised. Prescriptions will be written as needed. These individuals can work in long-term care facilities, private practice, private homes, ambulatory care, and acute care. They may also be referred to as gerontological NPs.


To meet the needs of their patients, a collaborative framework is used by NPs in oncology. They can be responsible for triaging problems that arise, carrying out a patient’s plan of care, and other duties.


As part of their training, NPs in pediatrics not only treat a child’s chronic or acute illnesses, but they also focus on illness prevention and health. Pediatric NPs are frequently turned to by families and young patients looking for compassionate support, guidance, and information.


Orthopedic NPs – together with nurses, physical therapists, physicians, and other healthcare professionals – help patients regain normal musculoskeletal function, manage pain, recover from surgery, and rehabilitate from injuries.

They may also be called upon to assist with daily tasks such as assessing the symptoms of new patients, monitoring people who are recurring patients, and conducting surgical patient follow-ups. For the recently injured, they may also assist with wound dressing and/or casting.

A Nurse Practitioner is also a Patient’s Health Educator

NPs assist and teach patients how to get well and stay well in the long run. This is particularly the case for FNPs (Family NPs). These incredible individuals focus on taking time with patients. Why does this matter? Particularly today, all too often, people can sometimes feel hurried or rushed out the door by health practitioners.

To promote optimal health, in key areas, NPs educate their patients. They obtain an understanding for the fundamental needs of a person through developing a relationship with them. In areas of disease prevention, wellness, and more, a NP provides patient education and enlightenment.

Are You a Nurse Practitioner? We Can Help Connect You with a Physician

If you’re a NP and you’d like to be connected with a collaborating physician, in 14 days or less, Collaborating Docs can match you with one – or your money back. In all fifty states, with access to more than 500 physicians, we help connect NPs with doctors every day!

It’s exhausting to jump through all the hoops that today’s NPs are expected to conquer, and no one should have to do it alone. It can be disappointing and discouraging. We are here to help! Our mission is to give NPs the freedom of independent choice to make it easier to reach more patients.

Schedule a free quote today so we can assist you in connecting with a carefully vetted collaborating physician ready to support you. Click here to schedule your Zoom call today!

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