What is an NP?

Education, Experience, Expertise

A nurse practitioner, often called an “NP” for short, is an advanced practice registered nurse who has completed graduate level education such as a master’s or a doctoral degree. All NPs in California are registered nurses licensed by the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) who have completed additional education and training, and have an expanded scope of practice over the traditional registered nurse role.

Components of Practice

  • Diagnosing, treating, evaluating and managing acute and chronic illness and disease (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure)
  • Obtaining medical histories and conducting physical examinations
  • Ordering, performing and interpreting diagnostic studies (e.g., routine lab tests, x-rays, EKGs)
  • Prescribing physical therapy and other rehabilitation treatments
  • Prescribing and furnishing medications for acute and chronic illness
  • Providing prenatal care and family planning services
  • Providing child wellness care, including screening and immunizations
  • Providing primary, specialty and health maintenance care for adults, including annual physicals and certifying disability
  • Providing care for patients in acute and critical care settings
  • Performing or assisting in minor surgeries and procedures (e.g., dermatological biopsies, suturing, casting)
  • Counseling and educating patients on health behaviors, self-care skills and treatment options

To become licensed to practice in California, NPs must complete an accredited NP program and be certified by the BRN. NPs specialize in many areas, including:

  • Acute Care
  • Adult Health
  • Emergency Services
  • Family Health
  • Gerontology
  • Neonatal Health
  • Oncology
  • Pediatric/Child Health
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health
  • Women’s Health

NP training programs were first developed over 50 years ago due to a shortage of physicians. State governments sought innovative ways to meet the growing demand for primary health care services. Out of that demand, the NP profession has grown to fill an important and vital role in America’s health care system. Working hand-in-hand with other licensed health care professionals, NPs improve the responsiveness and efficiency of our health care system. Because of their focus on primary care, disease prevention and counseling, NPs serve as exclusive providers of primary care for many families. There are more than 30,000 NPs in California and more than 290,000 practicing NPs nationwide. Nearly 20,000 new NPs are trained each year at over 350 colleges and universities.

Where You May Find an NP

  • Community clinics, health centers, urgent care centers
  • Home health care agencies
  • Hospitals and hospital clinics
  • Hospice care
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Medical groups and private health care practices
  • Public health departments
  • School/college clinics
  • Veterans Administration facilities
  • Emergency room settings