Nurse Practitioners

Nurse Practitioners

NURSE PRACTITIONERS — Untapped Resource cover

What are nurse practitioners?

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses who have additional education and nursing experience, which enables them to:

  • Autonomously diagnose and treat illnesses
  • Order and interpret tests
  • Prescribe medications
  • Perform medical procedures

NPs are health-care professionals who treat the whole person, an approach that includes:

  • Addressing needs relating to a person’s physical and mental health
  • Gathering medical history
  • Focusing on how an illness affects a person’s life and family
  • Offering ways for a person to lead a healthy life
  • Teaching persons how to manage chronic illness

NPs are also educators and researchers who can be consulted by other health-care team members.


Where do nurse practitioners work?

NPs work in a variety of health-care settings, such as:

  • Community care (community clinics, health-care centres, physicians’ offices and patients’ homes)
  • Long-term care (nursing homes)
  • Hospitals (outpatient clinics, emergency rooms and other patient areas)
  • NP-led clinics

What kind of health-care services does a nurse practitioner provide?

NPs provide a wide range of direct care services to people at every stage of life. In addition to treating illnesses, they teach individuals and their families about healthy living, preventing disease and managing illness. NPs bring together medical knowledge with the values and skills of nursing. NPs are also leaders, consultants and researchers who incorporate new knowledge into their practice.

Do nurse practitioners replace other health-care professionals? Will I still be able to see my doctor?

NPs work with, rather than replace, other health-care providers. They are part of a collaborative team that includes registered nurses, doctors, social workers and others. While seeing an NP, you can still see your family doctor or any other health-care provider.

What are the benefits of nurse practitioners?

NPs bring value to Canadians and their health-care system. Studies1about these benefits and patients’ experiences tell us that NPs:

  • Involve patients in decisions about their care
  • Improve access to primary health care
  • Reduce pressures on the health-care system
  • Are valued and trusted by patients
  • Provide high-quality management of chronic illness (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure)

Can nurse practitioners work in every province and territory?

Every province and territory has NP legislation in place. See CNA’s Nursing Statistics section for more information regarding NP numbers across Canada.

Are nurse practitioners new to the health-care system?

NPs first appeared in Canada in the 1960s. Early on, NPs provided care in rural and remote areas. By the 1970s, interest in the NP role increased and more education programs began. Today, NPs are an important part of the health-care system.

1See, for example, College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia. (2016).Nurse practitioner-sensitive outcomes: 2016 summary report. Retrieved from