What is an Advanced Practice Nurse?

The following definitions are used throughout this site.  The information used here is the definitions and role descriptions provided by the International Council of Nurses Advanced Practice Nursing Network.

Advanced Practice Nursing (synonymous with Advanced Nursing Practice):

“A Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Practice Nurse is a registered nurse who has acquired the expert knowledge base, complex decision-making skills and clinical competencies for expanded practice, the characteristics of which are shaped by the context and/or country in which s/he is credentialed to practice. A master’s degree is recommended for entry level.” (ICN APN Network)

There are various names commonly used for Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs), and are often country-specific.  Some of the more common names are as follows:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Advanced Nurse Practitioner
  • Advanced Nurse
  • Nurse Specialist
  • Advanced Practice Nurse
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Anesthetist

Characteristics of Advanced Practice Nursing
As provided by the ICN, the most common characteristics of an APN is as follows:

Educational Preparation

  • Educational preparation at advanced level
  • Formal recognition of educational programs preparing nurse practitioners/advanced nursing practice roles accredited or approved
  • Formal system of licensure, registration, certification and credentialing

Nature of Practice

  • Integrates research, education, practice and management
  • High degree of professional autonomy and independent practice
  • Case management/own case load
  • Advanced health assessment skills, decision-making skills and diagnostic reasoning skills
  • Recognized advanced clinical competencies
  • Provision of consultant services to health providers
  • Plans, implements & evaluates programs
  • Recognized first point of contact for clients

Regulatory mechanisms

  • Right to diagnose
  • Authority to prescribe medication
  • Authority to prescribe treatment
  • Authority to refer clients to other professionals
  • Authority to admit patients to hospital
  • Legislation to confer and protect the title “Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Practice Nurse”
  • Legislation or some other form of regulatory mechanism specific to advanced practice nurses
  • Officially recognized titles for nurses working in advanced practice roles

This page was primarily excerpted from the ICN/APN Network Definition and Characteristics of the Role page accessible here.

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