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APRN Simply put, an APRN is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. This means that this type of RN has earned a graduate-level degree such as a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and has been specially trained in one of the four recognized APRN roles. Many RNs who hold an ADN or BSN and wish to progress their careers choose to become APRNs so that they can dive into a more focused nursing practice with a higher degree of autonomy.

According to the APRN Consensus Model, there are four roles an APRN can hold: certified nurse-midwife (CNM), certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), and nurse practitioner (NP). While many people use the terms ‘APRN’ and ‘NP’ interchangeably, it’s of note to remember that while an NP is an APRN, an APRN isn’t always an NP, as described above.

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What Is the APRN Consensus Model?

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) developed the APRN Consensus Model to provide guidance for states on regulating and defining the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) role. While many states have adopted the model, APRNs must be aware that there can still be fluctuation from state to state regarding which portions of the model have been adopted. Therefore, APRNs moving from one state to the next will need to brief themselves on the version of the model adopted by their new state.

The following may help clear up any questions that students or APRNs may have on the APRN Consensus Model:

How Does the APRN Consensus Model Define an APRN?

The model states that an APRN is a registered nurse who has completed an accredited graduate degree program in one of the four approved roles, has passed a national certification exam, and has obtained a license to practice in one of the four APRN roles, which are:

APRN in Specialized Population Foci

Beyond these four APRN roles, there are several population foci that nurses can specialize in. This means that APRNs will complete education in one of the four roles, and can also gain specialized knowledge in one of the six population foci, which include:

  • Family/Individual Across Lifespan
  • Adult-Gerontology
  • Neonatal
  • Pediatrics
  • Women’s Health/Gender-Related
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health

For example, a popular APRN role is a pediatric nurse practitioner, where the NP practices within the pediatric population.

While licensure as an APRN is granted at the role and population foci levels, students also have the option of entering an APRN specialty, which are areas of healthcare that exist outside the role and population foci. Examples of APRN specialties include oncology, emergency, nephrology, and more. Research various nursing terms and abbreviations.

Are All RNs with Graduate Degrees APRNs?

No, only RNs with an MSN or DNP in one of the four APRN roles (CNM, CNS, CRNA, and NP) are considered APRNs. RNs with graduate degrees in non-patient facing roles (such as healthcare administration) are not considered APRNs.


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