Nurse or Nurse Practitioner: Which is Right for Me?

NursingNovember 01, 2021

November 7-13, 2021 is Nurse Practitioner Week, held to celebrate this important and growing field of healthcare. As a nursing student, you may have wondered, “What is the difference between a nurse and a nurse practitioner? And how do I become a nurse practitioner?” The roles have some similarities and several differences. 

Patient Care

Nurses work closely with patients, assessing their condition, recording their medical history, and administering treatments prescribed by doctors. Nurses also educate patients and family members on the course of medical plans of care and follow up with patients after treatment. 

Nurse practitioners also work closely with patients and perform several of the same tasks that nurses do, such as assessing condition and administering treatment. However, many of their duties are more like those of physicians. For example, nurse practitioners perform more thorough examinations and diagnose patients. Depending on the state regulations, they may be able to prescribe medications and order diagnostic tests, and they can create treatment plans. 


Nurses and nurse practitioners may both specialize in specific areas of interest. For example, nurses can become certified in a variety of areas, such as oncology, critical care, and pediatrics. Nurse practitioners can also choose an area of focus. And while the majority go into family or adult practice, some choose geriatrics, mental health, pediatrics, women’s health, and acute care, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners


The education requirements for these roles are quite different. To become a nurse, you need to earn a degree from an accredited program and pass the appropriate National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). You must also apply for a license from your state. Program options vary in length and include licensed practical nursing, often referred to as LPN, an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Both ADN and BSN programs may qualify the graduate to sit for the NCLEX exam for registered nursing. Passing the appropriate NCLEX exam for PN or RN  is required for licensure. 

Once you have obtained licensure as a registered nurse, you can begin your education toward becoming a nurse practitioner. To become a NP, you need to earn a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) and complete a higher number of clinical hours. If you choose to focus in a specific area, such as pediatrics or emergency care, you may need to obtain additional certifications or training. While it’s possible to become a nurse practitioner right away, many NPs start their careers off as an RN first, and later return to school to earn an advanced degree.

If you are feeling called to nursing, there are several paths to get you started and Fortis is here to help. Whether you decide to become a PN or RN on your path to becoming a nurse practitioner, nursing is a rewarding career where you can make a difference in the lives of people in your community. Learn how Fortis can help you get started with an outstanding education. Click here for more information on our nursing programs or call us today at (855) 436-7847 and speak to one of our career counselors.