What is a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses who have master’s, and often doctorate, degrees as well as extensive clinical training in the diagnosis and management of common and complex medical conditions. NPs provide a full range of health care services and guide patients in making educated health care decisions and promoting healthy lifestyle choices every day. Millions of patients choose NPs as their health care providers, with more than 1.06 billion visits annually.

Nurse practitioners treat physical and mental ailments by diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions; ordering, performing and interpreting diagnostic tests; prescribing medications and other treatments; and counseling and educating patients about smart lifestyle choices. Many of these providers work in rural and underserved areas to expand access to care to Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens. NPs also work to end health disparities and combat systemic racism in health care.

Nurse practitioners are required to pass a rigorous national certification exam and maintain board certification, which requires continuing education and renewal every three to five years. NPs adhere to a code for ethical practices and work in a variety of urban, suburban, rural and underserved areas in private physician or NP practices, free and mobile clinics, hospitals, Veterans Administration, military hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care sites, nursing homes, schools, colleges and public health departments.

In Virginia, NPs are licensed jointly by the Boards of Nursing and Medicine. More than 14,000 licensed nurse practitioners provide primary and specialized health care in the commonwealth.

The Virginia Board of Nursing recognizes the following categories of NPs: adult, family, pediatric, geriatrics, neonatal, women’s health, acute care and psychiatric. Many NPs work in specialty practices including, but not limited to, allergy and immunology, cardiology, critical care, dermatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology and oncology, internal medicine, interventional radiology, nephrology, oncology, pain management, pulmonary, rheumatology, surgery, trauma, urology and women’s health.

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