Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered professional nurses who are prepared through advanced graduate education and clinical training to provide a range of health services, including the diagnosis and management of common as well as complex medical conditions to people of all ages. Nurse practitioners have provided primary, acute and specialty health care to patients of all ages. Nurse practitioners assess patients, order and interpret diagnostic tests, make diagnoses, initiate and manage treatment plans—including prescribing medications. As clinicians, nurse practitioners blend clinical experience in diagnosing and treating health conditions with an added emphasis on health promotion, disease prevention and health management.
Practice authority can be defined as nurse practitioners’ ability to practice independently without physician oversight. This often requires having a relationship with a physician that outlines procedures the nurse practitioner may perform and procedures for consulting with the physician. In some states, policy specifies whether a nurse practitioner must complete a transition to practice period before practicing independently. In other states, nurse practitioners have full independent practice authority, meaning they practice independently with no physician oversight.
Prescriptive authority refers to a nurse practitioner’s authority to prescribe medications. Some states require a relationship with a physician that outlines the nurse practitioner’s prescribing abilities. Some states specify whether a nurse practitioner must complete a transition
to practice period before being able to prescribe independently. State law in some places allows nurse practitioners to prescribe medications independently without physician oversight. Some states explicitly identify a nurse practitioner as a primary care provider. This could include primary care being defined as a population focus for a nurse practitioner. Other states
do not explicitly identify nurse practitioners as primary care providers.