We look at the job of the Nurse Practitioner, how it differs from the job of a Staff Nurse and how that fits into the NHS hierarchy. About Matt Farrah - follow me on Google+

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is a more highly qualified or experienced nurse than a staff nurse, and will usually have completed a Masters Degree in Nursing.

There are several different specialisms that a Nurse Practitioner can enter into, e.g. emergency nurse practitioner (ENP).

What is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP)?

An Advanced Nurse Practitioner (to give the role its full title) is a nurse that has completed a higher level of training. The full definition according to the RCN is here, but the summarised version is as follows:

• Makes autonomous decisions for which he or she is responsible

• Often sees patients with undiagnosed conditions, and using skills in addition to the usual nursing skills set e.g. Physical examination, makes a decision about a care plan

• Is able to make a diagnosis

• May order necessary investigations (or tests) to be performed

• Has the authority to discharge or refer patients from their case where appropriate

• Provides leadership and consultancy where required

So how does the role differ from a standard nursing position?

A significant difference between an ANP and a Staff Nurse is that an ANP has the autonomy to make a diagnosis and decide on a treatment plan without the patient seeing a medical practitioner.

Is the role truly recognised in UK healthcare?

As with any recently introduced role, there are difficulties in defining how this role stands in the chain of decision making. Despite the role of ANP having been introduced just over 10 years ago, it’s still unclear to some in the profession where the responsibilities and capabilities of the ANP lie.

For example, The NP Survey 2006 found that 44 per cent of nurse practitioners had had an X-ray request refused, 22 per cent had other investigations refused and 44 per cent reported that they had had referrals refused, all of the grounds that they were nurses not doctors.

In response to this, the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellent (CHRE) agreed to work towards common standards between the various professional regulatory bodies to ensure that all advanced practitioners, in particular ANPs, are properly recognised.

How do I become a Nurse Practitioner?

In most cases, you need at least 2 – 3 years of post registration experience, and you will need to have completed a course of study that builds on your nursing skills. Some areas of study include therapeutic nursing, advanced pharmacology or management of patient care. A full list of subject areas suggested by the RCN can be found by clicking the link above. Most job posts for ANPs also required either experience or qualification in management of staff.

There is a set of key competencies set out by the RCN, which can also be found in that document, that define the areas of knowledge and skill that a nurse is required to have in order to progress to ANP status.

ANPs in the NHS are usually working at Band 7 or 8a level, which attracts a salary range of £30,460 - £46,621(correct on date of posting). Salaries in the private sector vary according to the role, but will often be similar to NHS pay scales and will also reflect experience and qualifications.