What is an advanced practice clinician (and why should you see one)?

May 21, 2018 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Most people know that the initials RN after someone’s name means registered nurse.

MD? Medical doctor. DO? Doctor of osteopathic medicine.

But have you ever wondered what the other initials mean after a caregiver’s name, such as APRN, NP or PA?

You’ll likely encounter an advanced practice clinician if you go to a Walk-In Clinic, in your primary care physician’s office or in the hospital to see a specialist. You may even see one as your primary care provider.

Here are some of the types of advanced practice clinicians you could see:

  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN): An APRN is a registered nurse who goes on to earn a master’s degree or a doctorate degree in nursing and is board certified. In 45 states, they can function as primary care providers, seeing patients, conducting exams and prescribing medicine (they’re able to practice independently in 16 states). They also work with doctors, serving as a liaison between the doctor and patients. There are several types of APRNs, including:
    • Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP)/Nurse Practitioner (NP): CNPs earn master’s degrees in a nursing-based program, which is more holistic than the medicine-based programs for doctors and physician assistants. Many have years of experience working as nurses before they earn their advanced degree. Some work in a primary care capacity, others work in specialties such as pediatrics, women’s health or oncology.
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): A CNS is certified in a specialty of choice, such as adult health, adult-gerontology, pediatrics, or adult or child psychiatric mental health.
    • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): A CRNA is certified in anesthesia.
    • Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM): A CNM specializes in women's reproductive health and childbirth, and preventive women's health maintenance.
  • Physician Assistant (PA): PAs are required to work with a supervising physician, but they see patients, conduct physical exams, offer diagnoses and prescribe medicine just like a doctor. They’re educated in a medicine-based program at the master’s degree level and undergo much of the same training a physician would, only their degree requires two years of study while medical school takes four years to complete.

One benefit of choosing an advanced practice clinician is convenience — they typically aren’t as booked as doctors. They staff our Walk-In Clinics and can handle minor illnesses and injuries.

Another plus: NPs and PAs often work and consult with doctors, which brings a team approach to your care. Don’t doubt the expertise of advanced practice clinicians, they come with a thorough medical education and provide high-quality care.

At our fast and friendly Walk-In Clinics you will be treated on a first-come, first-served basis by board-certified family nurse practitioners and physician assistants.


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