Definition and Characteristics of the Role

Nurse Practioner and Advanced Practice Roles

Nurse Practitioner and Advanced Practice Roles are developing globally. To facilitate a common understanding and guide further development of these important roles, ICN, through the expertise of its International Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Practice Nursing Network, has developed a definition and characteristics of a Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Practice Nurse. The definition and characteristics reflect ICN's official position and represent current and potential roles worldwide.


A Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Practice Nurse is a registered nurse who has acquired the expert knowledge base, complex decision-making skills and clinical competencies for expanded practice, the characteristics of which are shaped by the context and/or country in which s/he is credentialed to practice. A master's degree is recommended for entry level. APN definition in Chinese, French and Spanish.


Educational Preparation

  • Educational preparation at advanced level
  • Formal recognition of educational programs preparing nurse practitioners/advanced nursing practice roles accredited or approved
  • Formal system of licensure, registration, certification and credentialing
  • Nature of Practice

  • Integrates research, education, practice and management
  • High degree of professional autonomy and independent practice
  • Case management/own case load
  • Advanced health assessment skills, decision-making skills and diagnostic reasoning skills
  • Recognized advanced clinical competencies
  • Provision of consultant services to health providers
  • Plans, implements & evaluates programs
  • Recognized first point of contact for clients
  • Regulatory mechanisms – Country specific regulations underpin NP/APN practice

  • Right to diagnose
  • Authority to prescribe medication
  • Authority to prescribe treatment
  • Authority to refer clients to other professionals
  • Authority to admit patients to hospital
  • Legislation to confer and protect the title "Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Practice Nurse"
  • Legislation or some other form of regulatory mechanism specific to advanced practice nurses
  • Officially recognized titles for nurses working in advanced practice roles