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What is the difference between nurse practitioner & registered nurse?

A registered nurse assists a senior in a wheelchair in drinking water.

Nurse practitioner vs registered nurse: Key differences

If you aspire to become a nurse in the UK, you may have to decide which career path to take. Registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) are two common types of carers. In this article, we will explain the basic distinction between a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse to help you decide which profession will best suit you. 

What is a nurse practitioner in the UK? 

A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has gone to school and been trained more to improve their ability to diagnose or treat. They work side by side with physicians and monitor patients' health and record vital signs. They're also independent prescribers, which means patients may see them instead of scheduling a physician appointment if their condition requires prescription medication. A nurse practitioner may pursue specialisations similar to those of a registered nurse. Furthermore, they may choose to work within one of the four pillars of advanced practise, which are: 

Clinical practice 

In the UK, a nurse practitioner can become a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) after getting a master's or doctoral degree in nursing. If you are a nurse practitioner considering this specialisation, make sure you have strong problem-solving skills, as this role requires you to solve complex medical problems to help patients feel better. 

Leadership and management 

Nurses who work in the leadership and management pillar oversee the work of other nurses, help run medical facilities, and lead teams to give high-quality care to patients. Typically, in the UK, you can pursue this specialisation after obtaining a few years of experience as a full-time nurse practitioner. 

Teaching profession 

Similar to leadership and management, nurses who focus on education may have a chance to shape the future of the nursing profession. The difference is that they often do this by combining hands-on work with learning from lectures. 


Nursing research plays an important role in allowing healthcare professionals and academics to better understand the role of a nurse or how facilities may utilise nursing skills to help patients get better and feel more comfortable. They may also be involved in various medical research projects that allow them to participate in clinical trials and experiments 

What is a registered nurse? 

Registered nurses, also called registered general nurses (RGN) in the UK, are nurses who have finished training and earned a diploma or degree. The exact duties of a registered nurse depend upon their specialisation and workplace; however, they generally look after patients, assess their health, deliver patient care, and take samples, such as their temperature or pulse. RNs may specialise in four key areas of nursing, which are: 

Adult nursing 

Adult nursing allows you to care for adults, and it's a very flexible field that lets you try out a lot of different subspecialties. Adult nursing requires a strong understanding of how diseases work because adult patients often have long and complicated medical and surgical histories. 

Paediatric nursing 

Most of the time, paediatric nurses in the UK take care of children. However, in the UK, depending on their subspecialisation, career focus, and workplace, they may have to take care of teenagers, infants, or new-borns. 

Mental health nursing 

Mental health nurses help people who are having problems with their mental health by giving them medical care and emotional support. Mental health nurses require a lot of empathy, compassion, and strong situational awareness, and they get to work alongside psychiatrists and occupational therapists. 

Learning disability nursing 

Learning disability nurses will have to assist patients in removing the barriers that limit their ability to live independently. You can also teach them practical skills and foster healthy personal and professional relationships. 

Nurse practitioner vs. Registered nurse 

Registered nurses and nurse practitioners are in high demand in the UK. By 2027, it is estimated that the NHS will require 1.9 lakh more positions to be filled, according to Public Health England. Let's understand the basic difference between the two roles. 

1. Role and responsibilities 

In the UK, the main difference between a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner is that the latter can give patients prescriptions, order tests, and make diagnoses, which are usually done by doctors. On the other hand, registered nurses usually work under the supervision of a doctor, who decides how to care for, diagnose, and follow up with a patient. 

In a nutshell, if we look at nurse practitioners from the perspective of their roles, they have more freedom and responsibility due to their education, training, and experience. 

2. Training and education 

Both a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner need training and education, but they are not the same. 

To become a registered nurse, you usually need to go to school for two to four years. After that, you need to get registered with the NMC, and then you can apply for RN jobs. A registered nurse degree apprenticeship (RNDA), which combines work experience and classroom instruction, is another way to get ready for registration. 

The key difference between a registered nurse's and a nurse practitioner's is that, in addition to  NMC registration, employers expect a nurse practitioner to have qualifications that allow them to prescribe medicines to patients. A nurse practitioner may do this by becoming a community practitioner nurse prescriber (CPNP) or an independent prescriber (IP). 

3. Pay scale 

You might not have to work as a registered nurse first before becoming a nurse practitioner, depending on the state. However, becoming a registered nurse is always beneficial before advancing to the position of nurse practitioner. In the UK, a nurse practitioner usually earns more than a registered nurse. 

4. Career Progression 

After becoming a registered nurse and gaining experience, you may wonder what's next in your career. Registered nurses can grow in many ways, such as by learning how to lead the work of a nursing team. If you want to learn more, get a master's degree, an IP licence, and become a nurse practitioner. 

As a nurse practitioner, you can go for a leadership position or try to become an advanced nurse practitioner (ANP). As an ANP, you will be expected to make more complex decisions about patients' health, such as clinical diagnoses, in addition to prescribing medicine. 

5. Lifestyle 

When a registered nurse becomes a nurse practitioner, their work-life balance or quality of life may improve. They get to meet patients with more complex health conditions, allowing them to broaden their nursing skills. 

Registered nurses have more freedom and independence, while nurse practitioners often have more say over their schedules and how often they see patients. A nurse practitioner spends more time with patients as they perform many of the same duties as physicians. 

Even with these benefits, the job of a nurse practitioner can be challenging and more demanding than that of an RN, as they deal with complicated patient cases and have to make higher-level decisions. 

However, this is typically considered a positive challenge, and the rewards of having a larger part in patients' lives are very fulfilling and worth it. 

Nurses Group is the best nursing staffing agency in Yeovil, UK, and we have many nursing jobs open for people who want to become registered nurses. For more information, please visit our careers page

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