What is an advanced practice registered nurse or APRN? An APRN is a clinician with a registered nurse (RN) license who has also earned a master's in nursing in one of the following specialities: certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), certified nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse practitioner.
What Does an APRN Do?
The role of an advanced practice nurse falls between an RN and a physician in such areas as training, autonomy, responsibilities, and compensation.
For instance, advanced practice nurses have considerable autonomy since they can diagnose and treat conditions and prescribe medications. In some states, they must work under the supervision of or in collaboration with a physician. They often supervise RNs.
Advanced practice nurses typically hold these key skills and responsibilities:
- Acting as a primary care provider
- Disease and condition management (making diagnoses and ordering treatment)
- Oversight of staff, including RNs
- Continual learner
- Good decision-making under pressure
- Scientific aptitude
- Communication skills
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Where Do APRNs Work?
Depending on their speciality, advanced practice nurses may work in hospitals, private physicians' offices, birth centers, surgical centers, clinics, or residential care settings. APRNs might find work in these common settings:
APRNs can act as a primary care provider, diagnose and treat health conditions, and supervise RNs.
Advanced practice nurses might administer medication, lead nursing departments, and diagnose and treat health conditions.
APRNs oversee births, involve physicians or transfer to a hospital as needed, and educate pregnant women and parents on caring for a newborn.
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What Is the Difference Between an APRN and RN?
- High levels of autonomy; can practice independently in most states with limited physician supervision in others
- Can make diagnoses and order treatments
- Can prescribe medications, including controlled substances
- Minimum six years of college with master's degree in nursing
- Requires education and certification beyond RN
- Limited autonomy and independence; must practice under direct supervision of a physician or an APRN
- Cannot diagnose conditions or prescribe medications; carries out physician or APRN treatment plans
- Minimum two years of college with an associate degree in nursing (ADN)
- Requires RN license
- Can be an entry-level position
How to Become an APRN
Advanced practice nurses must have an RN license, a graduate degree in nursing, and, in the majority of states, national or state certification. Most graduate schools require RN nursing experience before admission. Specific requirements vary by state and the certifying board.
Graduate with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).
Pass the NCLEX-RN exam to receive RN licensure.
Explore different nursing specialty areas while gaining clinical experience.
Apply to an MSN-APRN or doctoral nursing program.
Earn certification from an approved nursing specialty board.
Apply for state licensure.
The Four Types of APRN Roles
Certified Nurse Practitioner
Clinical Nurse Specialist
Certified Nurse Midwife
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
How Much Do APRNs Make?
Advanced practice nurse salaries are considerably above the national median annual salary of $39,810. The highest paid APRN specialization is nurse anesthetist with a median annual salary of $174,790 and the lowest paid is clinical nurse specialist at an average $91,300 annual salary. The median salary for most APRNs is $115,800 and 90% earn between $82,460-$184,180.
Demand for advanced practice nurses is growing; the BLS projects 45% growth between 2019 and 2029 — a total of 117,770 new jobs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Resources for APRNs
American Nurses AssociationANA offers professional education; issues credentials; publishes books, journals, and newsletters; engages in advocacy for nurses and healthcare reform in general; and offers networking opportunities. Full membership is open to RNs, and students and others can join as subscribers.
American Association of Nurse PractitionersAt 118,000 members, the AANP is the largest professional association for NPs in the United States. It offers professional education, including an annual conference, engages in advocacy, and issues scholarly journals, newsletters, and other publications. Membership is open to NPs, students, retirees, and affiliate members.
American College of Nurse-MidwivesThe ACNM provides professional education, including a conference, publishes newsletters and a journal, promotes the profession of midwifery, and conducts advocacy. Certified midwives and nurse midwives can be full members; students and others can join as nonvoting members.
American Association of Nurse AnesthetistsThe AANA serves approximately 54,000 nurse anesthetists with newsletters and scholarly publications, networking opportunities, professional education in multiple formats, recognition programs, and malpractice insurance offerings. Membership is open to nurse anesthetists and students.
National Association of Clinical Nurse SpecialistsThe NACNS offers publications, toolkits, and clinical resources; provides scholarship and awards programs; conducts research on the profession and clinical nursing standards; and engages in advocacy. Membership is open to individuals and institutions.
Nicole Galan is a registered nurse who earned a master's degree in nursing education from Capella University and currently works as a full-time freelance writer. Throughout her nursing career, Galan worked in a general medical/surgical care unit and then in infertility care. She has also worked for over 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in consumer health sites and educational materials for nursing students.
Galan is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.
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