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J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2012 Jan;24(1):11-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2011.00683.x.

Defining NP scope of practice and associated regulations: focus on acute care.

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  • 1Center for Clinical Research and Scholarship, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA.



Although the nurse practitioner (NP) role has been in existence for over 40 years, there continues to be uncertainty about the essential components that define NP scope of practice. The purpose of this article is to review definitions and concepts related to NP scope of practice with an emphasis on NPs working in acute care.


A synthesis literature review was conducted on defining NP scope of practice. Simultaneous review of authoritative resources including National Council of State Board of Nursing, individual state board of nursing language, and NP scope and standards of practice documents was conducted.


Scope of practice is a legal term used by states to define what activities an individual professional can undertake. The Consensus Model for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Regulation outlines that licensure and scope of practice are based on graduate education within a defined patient population for the APRN role. The APRN Consensus Model further identifies that the services provided by APRNs are not defined or limited by setting but rather by patient care needs. For the acute care NP, this is especially significant, as patient acuity and care requirements can vary across settings. When implemented, the Consensus Model will help to standardize regulation for APRNs as well as ensure congruence between licensure, accreditation, certification, and education.


Providing clarification of the NP scope of practice, especially as it pertains to NPs working in acute care settings, remains needed to support practice based on educational preparation, licensure, certification, and focus of practice.

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