What is an APRN | Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

APRN is an acronym that stands for advanced practice registered nurse.

An APRN is a registered nurse who has acquired extensive medical knowledge, certification, and expertise in the medical field.

All advanced practice registered nurses have earned an MSN or post-Masters/Doctorate in their specialized field.

Altogether APRN specializations are broken down into four areas.

It includes certified registered nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse-midwives, and certified nurse practitioners.

Each specialization/role serves a necessary healthcare function for patients within specific healthcare groups.

For instance, certified registered nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia to injured patients or those undergoing surgery.

Alternatively, certified nurse midwives provide care to women and mothers through all stages of their lives.

As a result, each role provides special and expert medical care for those with specific healthcare needs.

Those who work as APRNs operate in various healthcare settings.

It includes hospitals, primary care facilities, private offices, ambulatory care clinics, patient homes, and numerous other environments.

Furthermore, they work with nurses, doctors, physicians, practitioners, and other experts to ensure optimal patient care.

The Four Kinds of APRN Career Specialties

There are four career specialties for APRNs (advanced practice registered nurses).

It includes nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners.

These professions require registered nurses to possess at least an MSN degree.

As a result, they must pursue further education beyond their BSN (bachelors of science in nursing) degree.

The following section explores the various roles of APRNs and how they differ.

First, those interested in becoming APRNs must decide which role is best for them.

Their education centers around these specific roles and requires time and expertise to acquire the necessary degree.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is an APRN who administers anesthesia and other medications.

These healthcare professionals are responsible for monitoring patients throughout their anesthesia and medical procedures.

Accordingly, they work with surgeons, dentists, physicians, and practitioners who serve patients that require anesthesia.

Due to their work, CRNAs are highly respected, and many registered nurses pursue a career in anesthesiology.

Certified registered nurse anesthetists make exceptional incomes.

As a result, CRNAs earn one of the highest salaries in the nursing profession.

With that said, being a CRNA can be very stressful.

Not only are they responsible for administering medication, but they also work in settings that require attentive patient care.

For instance, CRNAs provide care in ICUs, trauma centers, and emergency departments.

Although working as a CRNA isn’t for everyone, those interested in this line of work find it highly rewarding.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

A clinical nurse specialist or CNS is an APRN who specializes in managing patients with severe conditions.

Ultimately, these healthcare professionals provide education and training to registered nurses.

It includes educating nurses on new medical equipment, teaching vital skills, and staying up-to-date on relevant information.

 CNS works with registered nurses to ensure that they provide quality patient care.

They also educate and offer resources to patients in the healthcare facility.

It includes providing orientation classes, answering patient questions, and giving consultations.

CNSs speak with patients and families to educate them about procedures, treatments, and healthcare processes.

It provides patients and families vital information to improve their health and address concerns.

Clinical nurse specialists look after their staff, organization, and patients’ education, treatment, and well-being.

They work towards improving the outcomes of those around them through education and training.

They are educators, consultants, leaders, researchers, and clinical practice specialists within the nursing profession.

As educators, CNS work in various settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and critical care environments.

Furthermore, they deal with a range of patients with different healthcare needs.

It encompasses geriatrics, pediatrics, women’s health, critical care, diabetes, rehabilitation, and other specialty fields.

CNSs pursue a broad range of specialized fields dealing with clinical care.

Certified Nurse Midwife

A certified nurse-midwife or CNM is an APRN specializing in women’s health.

These advanced practice registered nurses focus on all stages of life, from pregnancy to birth.

They perform various healthcare services because their specialty focuses on reproductive health and childbirth.

It includes performing examinations, writing prescriptions, monitoring fetal development, and assisting with childbirth.

They also counsel pregnant mothers, provide parent education and act as primary care providers.

The roles of CNM sometimes overlap with other specialties.

However, they are separate from OB-GYN and women’s health nurse practitioners.

These articles, “Midwife vs. OB-GYN” and “Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioner,” provide facts about the differences between each profession.

With that said, many universities combine aspects of the various programs.

Those taking combined courses may not require additional university coursework to become certified in separate specializations.

However, they will require additional clinical coursework to become certified in each specialization.

Certified Nurse Practitioner

A CNP or certified nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse with an MSN or DNP degree.

These healthcare specialists focus their education on a specific field of healthcare.

It includes pediatrics, psychiatric, neonatal care, geriatric, acute, family, and women’s health.

With that said, there are numerous other specializations a nurse practitioner may choose.

Because CNS are specialized and well educated, they can perform medical tasks beyond a registered nurse’s abilities.

CNS can diagnose and treat various injuries and illnesses within their practice spectrum.

Furthermore, they prescribe medications and act as primary healthcare providers.

Some certified nurse practitioners even open their clinics.

Many CNS operate without a doctor or physician’s supervision because of their extensive knowledge and training.

With that said, some states limit the scope of practice a CNS can provide.

For instance, some states allow CNS to operate autonomously/without supervision, while others require doctor or physician oversight.

It’s true even when the certified nurse practitioner owns and runs their clinic.

A CNS may hire or collaborate with a doctor or physician to manage the clinic or office.

Those interested in becoming certified nurse practitioners may require a DNP in the future.

APRN vs. RN – What’s The Difference?

A commonly asked question among students and patients is, what’s the difference between an APRN and an RN?

Is an APRN higher than an RN, do they focus on different healthcare fields, and which profession earns more?

An APRN or advanced practice registered nurse is an advanced position within the registered nursing profession.

APRNs possess a higher education than registered nurses.

Most registered nurses hold an ASN/ADN (associates) or BSN (bachelors) degree.

APRNs hold an MSN (master’s) or DNP (Doctorate) degree.

They also practice in one of four specialties.

It includes nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse-midwifery, and certified nurse practitioners.

These healthcare specialists require expertise and exceptional knowledge beyond a standard registered nurse’s position.

Due to the education level and expertise required, APRNs have more autonomy and responsibilities than other nurses.

Registered nurses provide healthcare to patients in various settings.

They are under the supervision of APRNs, doctors, physicians, and higher-level healthcare professionals.

However, registered nurses specialize in particular roles and healthcare departments.

For instance, registered nurses operate in ICUs, trauma units, critical care departments, and numerous other fields.

With that said, there are limitations on the patient care they can provide.

For instance, registered nurses cannot prescribe medications.

They also cannot open their clinics or act as primary care providers.

Conversely, certified nurse practitioners prescribe medications, act as primary care providers, and open clinics.

APRNs frequently earn higher salaries than registered nurses due to their expertise and specialization.

However, entrepreneurial nurses within specific specialty fields can generate incomes similar to APRNs.

Successful, hard-working nurse entrepreneurs earn significantly more than those in other professions.


APRNs or advanced practice registered nurses are essential to the healthcare system.

These healthcare specialists provide attentive and compassionate care in all areas of life.

Specializing in particular healthcare fields expands their knowledge and scope of practice beyond regular healthcare.

As a result, APRNs fill vulnerable healthcare areas that require educated and expert professionals.

It ensures that patients receive the attention and care they need regardless of their health status and situation.

Because registered nurses make up the vast majority of healthcare specialists, they are critical for assuring a functional healthcare system.

Without registered nurses, APRNS, doctors, physicians, and other professionals cannot provide adequate patient care.

The opportunity for registered nurses to pursue careers as APRNs opens up significant possibilities.

It ensures that all patients receive adequate medical care promptly.

It also improves the healthcare system by improving research, development progress, and occupational opportunities.

Lastly, it establishes a rewarding career path for passionate APRNs.