What Is Advanced Practice Nursing?

The development of nursing work beyond what is expected at the entry to practice is needed in order to meet the community’s health needs. As health care constantly changes, nursing practice continues to evolve, and the majority of practitioners now work in a variety of ways and at higher levels of practice. The acceptance of the advanced practice nurse role in U.S. healthcare recognizes the structural capability of nursing to respond to the community’s health needs while promoting easy accessibility of health care.

The Profession Defined

Advanced practice nursing is a level of nursing practice that utilizes expanded and extended skills, knowledge and experience in the evaluation, implementation, planning, diagnosis and assessment of the care that is required. An advanced practice nurse is a registered nurse who has acquired complex decision-making skills, clinical competencies and an expert knowledge base for expanded practice.

All of these factors are shaped by the context of the health service where the nurse’s practice is based. A nurse who is practicing at this level will usually have a post-graduate degree. They may also work in a generalist or specialist capacity.

However, the basis of being an advanced practice nurse is often the high degree of experience, skill and knowledge that is applied within the nurse-consumer relationship. This helps achieve optimal outcomes through the use of accurate decision-making, problem solving and critical analysis.

Basic Functions

An advanced practice nurse is trained to perform a number of functions that general practice nurses are not allowed to do. One of these functions is the ability to arrange patient consultations and referrals. They are also allowed to develop a differential diagnosis and a therapeutic plan of care.

They are also allowed to obtain health histories and perform comprehensive examinations that include developmental, functional and psychosocial assessments. They also have the capability to order and interpret laboratory results and other types of diagnostic studies. Advanced practice nurses are also trained to evaluate a patient’s response to a plan of care.

These healthcare professionals are also allowed to make changes if they see fit. Aside from that, they can provide family and patient counseling and education and are able to participate in research studies. They also maintain patient records for future reference.


Nurses who are prepared at the graduate level function in a wide range of roles as advanced practice nurses in a number of specialty areas. One of these roles is the nurse practitioner. These professionals can be seen working in tertiary, long-term, community and primary care venues. They are also heavily involved in the management of health problems.

Another role that an advanced practice nurse can perform is that of a nurse anesthetist. This is an advanced practice nurse who mainly specializes in the administration of anesthesia. This includes local, spinal, sedation and epidural anesthesia.

An advanced practiced nurse can also be a certified nurse-midwife. These professionals have specialized training and education in both midwifery and nursing. Most often, they provide medical care for healthy women whose birth is not considered complicated.

On the other hand, a clinical nurse specialist is an advanced practice nurse whose primary focus is on a specific patient population or a specific area of study. There are also four primary components of their role that include consultant, educator, clinical expert and researcher. They integrate all of these components in order to provide flexibility and diversity in a multifaceted environment.


Advanced practice nurses are an important part of the expert care that is given to patients in today’s healthcare environment. With advanced training in a number of specialized areas, they are able to care for patients with complicated conditions or those who have undergone sensitive procedures. Because of this, the need for these highly trained professionals will likely increase in the near future.

Check out “Best Online Associates Degree in Nursing Programs“.