When starting your career in nursing, it’s essential to understand the educational requirements, duties, and job opportunities available to you. There are multiple nursing careers, each with different training requirements, education options, and nursing job outlooks.
Many nursing students and health care professionals get confused when comparing registered nurses (RNs) with nurse practitioners. They know that they both provide patient care, but they’re not sure how the two are different from one another or which of the two would be a better career choice. The best part about the nursing field is developing skills in other areas by switching positions. That means if you are doing a BSN nursing degree, after completing it you can switch to advanced practice nursing without any issue.
Registered Nurse vs Nurse Practitioner
Two careers in nursing are often viewed side by side: registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPS). Below is the breakdown of the day-to-day tasks, training and certification requirements, and salary for these positions.
What is a Registered Nurse?
A registered nurse or RN is a professional who cares for sick, injured, and convalescing patients. RNs work with doctors to develop patients’ treatment plans. They also administer medications, change dressings, treat wounds, give injections and help perform diagnostic tests.
To become a registered nurse in most states of the US, you must complete an undergraduate degree from an accredited nursing program and pass the National Certification Exam (NCLEX-RN). You will then need to obtain your state board of nursing license.
What Are the Job Duties of a Registered Nurse?
The primary job role of a registered nurse is to provide preventive care. These individuals typically work in hospitals and clinics, looking after sick or injured patients. With this in mind, RNs spend much of their time performing tasks like:
- Observing and assessing patients
- Maintaining detailed medical records of patients.
- Administering medications, IVs, and other treatments and monitoring side effects and reactions
- Developing, implementing, and evaluating patient care plans with the medical team
- Taking care of wounds, such as cleaning and changing bandages
- Educating patients and family members about injuries, conditions, and illnesses
- Providing supervision to licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants, and students
- Registered nurses (RNs) do much more than giving injections and drawing blood samples; they also instruct patients on managing their conditions at home.
Clinical experience is very important for nurses. Many RNs specialize in a particular area of nursing, such as cardiology, pediatrics, or psychiatric care. Registered nurses can work in emergency rooms, be involved with disaster relief efforts to provide urgent medical care when it’s needed most.
One of the best things about being an RN is the variety of options available for specialization. Registered nurses work with various patients and conditions and can focus their practice in a particular type of nursing, such as cardiovascular care or geriatrics.
If you want to focus on something specific like pediatrics or obstetrics, that is an option too! Above are some typical job duties that an rn may have in a hospital or clinic.
Annual Salary of Registered Nurses
According to Payscale following are some details regarding the salaries of registered nurses:
- An entry-level Registered Nurse (RN) with less than 1-year experience can expect to earn an average total compensation (includes tips, bonus, and overtime pay) of $27.59 based on 6,362 salaries.
- An early career Registered Nurse (RN) with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $29.15 based on 21,907 salaries.
- A mid-career Registered Nurse (RN) with 5-9 years of experience makes an average total compensation of $31.88 based on 12,188 salaries.
- An experienced Registered Nurse (RN) with 10-19 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $34.56 based on 11,690 salaries.
- In their late-career (20 years and higher), employees earn an average total compensation of $36.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
A nurse practitioner or NP is a registered nurse who has obtained a master’s degree in nursing and additional certification, typically from a university or health care organization. Nurse practitioners can be certified by one of two national boards: the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
Nurse practitioners must have passed the NCLEX-RN exam before practicing as an NP in most states. There is no mandatory requirement for NPs to become licensed in every state; however, many choose to do so because it shows their credentials and commitment to high practice standards.
What Are the Job Duties of a Nurse Practitioners (NPS)?
RNs and nurse practitioners provide medical care and monitor their patients’ health, but their roles may differ depending on their location, facility, and specific specialty. NPS usually perform the following duties:
- Maintaining accurate medical records by recording the patient’s medical history and symptoms.
- Taking samples and information from patients
- Doing blood tests and checking vital signs
- Examining patients routinely and thoroughly
- Observing patients and evaluating medical and test results
- Developing individual treatment plans and referring patients
- Monitoring medication results and prescribing medications
- Operating some medical equipment and ordering diagnostic tests
- Assisting in the supervision of nurses and other members of the staff
- Sharing knowledge, creating treatment plans, and diagnosing patients with other healthcare professionals
Like RN, some nurse practitioners specialize in a specific professional area. Some pursue education and training to work as nurse practitioners in family or emergency medicine, pediatrics, mental health care, surgery, or women’s health care. These specialized roles usually entail additional certifications and duties for NPs.
Salaries of Nurse Practitioners
According to Payscale following are some details regarding the salaries of nurse practitioners:
- An entry-level Nurse Practitioner (NP) with less than 1-year experience can expect to earn an average total compensation (includes tips, bonus, and overtime pay) of $92,487 based on 431 salaries.
- An early career Nurse Practitioner (NP) with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $97,951 based on 1,032 salaries.
- A mid-career Nurse Practitioner (NP) with 5-9 years of experience earns an average full wage of $103,800 based on 513 salaries.
- An experienced Nurse Practitioner (NP) with 10-19 years of experience makes an average total compensation of $109,436 based on 392 salaries.
- In their late-career (20 years and higher), employees earn an average full wage of $111,005.
Similarities Between Both Roles
RNs and NPs both provide nursing care to patients. They both work in a patient-centered environment and analyze the patient’s needs, medical history, and current condition to determine the appropriate course of action.
For example, an NP might perform a health assessment by listening to a patient’s lungs and heart with a stethoscope and observing the state of the patient’s skin and extremities. While it is performed by NPs and physicians’ assistants (PAs) in emergency departments or ambulatory settings, RNs can also perform physical exams within their scope of practice.
RNs usually work regular business hours during the weekdays, while NPS often work evening shifts and weekends. As long as both registered nurses (Rns) and nurse practitioners (Np’s) stay updated on medical knowledge and techniques through continuing entry-level education, their roles will continue to overlap one another resulting in further career growth opportunities for each.
Differences Between Both Roles
The major difference between RNs and NPS is the educational paths each must obtain to practice. Each nursing career has different education requirements.
Nurse practitioners or advanced practice nurses require a graduate degree in nursing in addition to either certification as an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP) or family nurse practitioner (FNP). A master’s degree prepares them for work in primary care medical settings such as family medicine groups, clinics, and sometimes hospitals.
RNs typically earn a bachelor’s degree; however, some positions may require the individual to have at least an associate degree or certification from a licensing examination like NCLEX. RNs can pursue further education and training through postgraduate certificate programs and doctoral degrees like Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Nurse practitioners participate more frequently in direct patient care and treatment than RNs, who spend more time on administrative tasks like case management.
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NP Vs. RN: How to Choose the Right Path for You?
Now that you know the similarities, differences, job duties, and salary stat’s between both roles, you are left to wonder which one is the right fit for you. Both positions have some great benefits, but that’s not to say that nurse practitioners don’t have the added benefit of providing more specialized care in specific medical settings.
With an RN, you can have a family life while still having the structure of weekly office hours and regular business hours. If you find yourself quickly overwhelmed by chaotic situations, perhaps an RN position is better suited for your personality type. An NP can also provide structure with their specific daily schedules, but they need to work well in these less-structured environments, challenging for some people.
If you are more comfortable working in a busy clinical environment and want to ensure that you give your all when caring for patients, perhaps becoming an NP would be better.
Both roles have pros and cons, but it’s your job to determine which one would allow for the best work-life balance. Perhaps even identify what is most important to you in a career setting, then look at the similarities or differences that stand out to you. You may find yourself aligning with more similarities than differences, which could mean becoming an NP might be better suited for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s move to some faqs that people also ask.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) and registered nurses (RNs) work in different environments that require dedication, hard work, and extensive experience with medical cases, patients, and treatments. With this commonality of commitment and hard work, the role of NPS is often compared with registered nurses. However, it must be clear that while they share some similarities, specific differences exist between these two roles as well.
The main difference between an RN and NP is the scope of practice. Nurse practitioners give much more autonomy. Nurse practitioners can work independently and have their own offices in some states. Conversely, registered nurses work under a clinician such as a doctor or a nurse practitioner. The career paths of both roles are somehow similar.
Nurse practitioners make more than registered nurses because of their autonomy. They work in a leadership/supervisory role. Additionally, the difference in their pay is due to the level of education differences. Nurse practitioners have to complete at least a master’s degree, whereas registered nurses only need to complete an Associates’ Degree in Nursing. But remember one thing both are rewarding careers.