The Certified Nurse Practitioner

For the certified nurse practitioner (CNP), care along the wellness-illness continuum is a dynamic process in which direct primary and acute care is provided across settings. CNPs are members of the health delivery system, practicing autonomously in areas as diverse as family practice, pediatrics, internal medicine, geriatrics, and women’s health care. CNPs are prepared to diagnose and treat patients with undifferentiated symptoms as well as those with established diagnoses. Both primary and acute care CNPs provide initial, ongoing, and comprehensive care, includes taking comprehensive histories, providing physical examinations and other health assessment and screening activities, and diagnosing, treating, and managing patients with acute and chronic illnesses and diseases. This includes ordering, performing, supervising, and interpreting laboratory and imaging studies; prescribing medication and durable medical equipment; and making appropriate referrals for patients and families. Clinical CNP care includes health promotion, disease prevention, health education, and counseling as well as the diagnosis and management of acute and chronic diseases. Certified nurse practitioners are prepared to practice as primary care CNPs and acute care CNPs, which have separate national consensus-based competencies and separate certification processes.


The title Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) is the licensing title to be used for the subset of nurses prepared with advanced, graduate-level nursing knowledge to provide direct patient care in four roles: certified registered nurse anesthetist, certified nurse-midwife, clinical nurse specialist, and certified nurse practitioner.5 This title, APRN, is a legally protected title. Licensure and scope of practice are based on graduate education in one of the four roles and in a defined population.

Verification of licensure, whether hard copy or electronic, will indicate the role and population for which the APRN has been licensed.

At a minimum, an individual must legally represent themselves, including in a legal signature, as an APRN and by the role. He/she may indicate the population as well. No one, except those who are licensed to practice as an APRN, may use the APRN title or any of the APRN role titles. An individual also may add the specialty title in which they are professionally recognized in addition to the legal title of APRN and role.


Nurses with advanced graduate nursing preparation practicing in roles and specialties that do not provide direct care to individuals and, therefore, whose practice does not require regulatory recognition beyond the Registered Nurse license granted by state boards of nursing may not use any term or title which may confuse the public, including advanced practice nurse or advanced practice registered nurse. The term “advanced public health nursing” however, may be used to identify nurses practicing in this advanced specialty area of nursing.

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