5 Differences That Set Clinical Nurse Leaders and Nurse Practitioners Apart

  • Specialized Training
  • Care They Provide
  • Clinical Education Required
  • Prescriptive Privileges
  • Certifications

While both clinical nurse leaders and nurse practitioners are both healthcare and patient care providers, there are several differences between the two. Nurse practitioners and clinical nurse leaders are both registered nurses (RNs) who have completed Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs, but they’re each required to complete additional specialized training in different areas of nursing and patient care. Both of these professionals are highly regarded in the medical profession and both are highly valued assets wherever they choose to work. Here are five major differences between a clinical nurse leader and a nurse practitioner.

1. Specialized Training

The training required and completed is one major difference between the clinical nurse leader and the nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners are part of the nursing profession and one of four advanced practice registered nurse positions, which also include certified nurse-midwife, certified registered nurse anesthetist and clinical nurse specialist. They can choose to focus on several areas of specialization, including women’s health, family health, adult/gerontology health, pediatric health, emergency and urology, among many others. Clinical nurse leaders do not specialize in areas of clinical practice but rather train in either coordination of patient care or general advanced patient care.

2. Care Provided

Clinical nurse leaders and nurse practitioners are trained to provide different type of patient care. Clinical nurse leaders are generally the professionals who oversee patient care in the facility in which they work. They’re in charge of other nurses on their staff. They coordinate, supervise and delegate the nursing care provided by the entire nursing team. Clinical nurse leaders work is more limited to the clinical level as opposed to the administrative level. Nurse practitioners are clinical specialists whose work is focused on one of several clinical nursing specializations.

3. Clinical Education Required

Whether the choice is to be a clinical nurse leader or a nurse practitioner, the candidate is required to complete not just course work but also clinical education. The clinical education is a major component of the training program because it provides the candidate with supervised hands-on training. It’s also a requirement before the individual can obtain certification. The number of hours required by each differs. Clinical nurse leaders are required to complete at least 400 clinical hours, and nurse practitioners need 500 clinical hours.

4. Prescriptive Privileges

The ability to give out prescriptions is another significant difference between clinical nurse leaders and nurse practitioners. Clinical nurse leaders may provide direct patient care to patients and supervise the care provided by other nurses, but they cannot prescribe medication. If they feel a patient needs prescription medication, they can give their recommendation to the physician, and the physician can give out the prescription if necessary. Nurse practitioners, on the other hand, can legally give out prescriptions in all 50 states. This is a major reason why many patients choose to see nurse practitioners.

5. Certifications

Both clinical nurse leaders and nurse practitioners are required to obtain certification before they can wear the title of certified clinical Nurse Leader or Certified Nurse Practitioner. They each have different certification requirements and can obtain their certifications from different agencies. The clinical nurse leader can obtain certification through the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The nurse practitioner can obtain certification through several organizations, including:

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board
  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board
  • National Certification Corporation

Related Resource: Top 20 Most Affordable MSN in Clinical Nurse Leader Online Programs

Working as clinical nurse leaders and nurse practitioners are both choices that lead to careers with excellent job growth and very good wages, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite the differences between clinical nurse leader and nurse practitioners, both professionals have the chance to make a difference in the type of health care a patient receives.