The primary care nurse practitioner is the ultimate source of health care for people and their families. Through various stages of the lifespan, these knowledgeable professionals provide direct, reliable care to their patients through the user of medical technology and the skills gained through a rigorous degree program.

Understanding the Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Track

The requirements for this program are provided in an effort to fully engage learners into the different aspects of patient treatment, so that each patient is treated with dignity and precision.

Our Family Nurse Practitioner nursing subject matter experts have investigated online primary care nurse practitioner programs so that the information provided is up to date and relevant by today's standards.

Consider a Featured Online FNP or DNP Program currently accepting applicants:
Nursing @ USC Online Master of Science in Nursing program RN and BSN required
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ACEN Accredited
Norwich University Online Master of Science in Nursing CCNE accredited
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Doctor of Nursing Practice online
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Nursing @ Georgetown Online MS in Nursing program Earn in as few as 19 months.

Online Primary Care NP Programs

Online primary care nurse practitioner programs are designed with students in mind. The online platform for graduate majors consists of interactive classroom tools and full instructor support through the duration of the online degree program. Through this method of learning, students will take courses that are relevant to the NP field and study illness, injury, and disease that are common throughout the population.

Most online PCNP programs are around 5 semesters in length and can be completed in less than 2 years. There are also specialty fields available, which focus on providing primary care to aging patients, adult patients, and youth. When choosing an online degree program, students should make sure to only choose NP programs that are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Accreditation is a vital mark that ensures a degree program can lead to future licensure and employment as a PCNP.

Top 5 Sample Classes for Online Primary Care NP Programs

  • Clinical Pharmacology
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Diagnosis, Symptom, and Illness Management
  • Advanced Practice in Primary Care
  • Human and Family Development through the Lifespan

Acute care vs. Primary care

Both acute care and primary care nurse practitioners have well-defined responsibilities in the health care field. While both administer direct care to patients, their settings are quite different from a professional perspective.

Acute care, by its very meaning, deals with the sudden treatment of severe or emergency illnesses and injury. Primary care deals with general health care of all types of individuals in a clinical setting. Some of the differences in the two fields are listed below for those wishing to differentiate between each one.

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

  • Requires a minimum Master’s of Nursing Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Usually found in emergency departments or acute care clinics in which patients are seen for unexpected illness or injury
  • Administers diagnostic tests, diagnosis, and treatment to patients from intake to discharge
  • Works alongside physicians, nurses, and techs in an effort to provide fast and urgent care to patients

View Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Programs

Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

  • Requires a minimum Master’s of Nursing Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Usually found in hospitals, clinics, or private practices in which patients visit for standard wellness checks, illnesses, or injuries
  • Administers diagnostic tests, diagnosis acute and chronic illness, and treats patients throughout their lifespan
  • Can work alongside other physicians or nurses, but have the option to have private practices

Primary Care vs. FNP

Primary care nurse practitioners serve the public without a particular branding of clientele. Most primary care clinics invite anyone suffering from illness or injury, with no regards to a specialty. Family nurse practitioners promote family health and wellness, which a more specific treatment class than the more generic primary care field. Our team has provided insight below into the similar aspects of both, as well as a few differences.

View Online FNP Programs

Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

  • Requires a minimum Master’s of Nursing Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Can work in hospitals, clinics, or for organizations that provide health care to individuals from all backgrounds
  • Focuses on wellness, diagnosis and treatment of illness and injury, and prescribing medication for patients
  • Does not have any particular focus as to particular groups, but is generalized to the public as a whole

Family Nurse Practitioner

  • Requires a minimum Master’s of Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Can work in hospitals, but is more likely to be found in clinics and private practice
  • Focuses on wellness, diagnosis and treatment of illness and injury, and prescribing medications for individuals and families
  • Primary care providers for families, with a focus on family wellness and disease prevention

Career options and salary, what jobs can you get?

As a PCNP, professionals can work in a variety of fields. Hospitals, clinics, and government agencies seek out PCNPs to conduct regular health assessments of the general public. Since nurses of this specialty have such a wide variety of skills, any agency that deals with the public and health need them to assist with client inflow.

Depending on where a primary care nurse practitioner is employed, salaries can vary. Individuals working in larger, more populated areas may find that salaries are higher than smaller areas. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides salary data for nurse practitioners in various settings (BLS;, 2015).

  • Primary Care Nurse Practitioner: $104,740 per year on average (BLS;, 2015).

What is the working environment and responsibilities?

An interesting aspect of this career field is its flexibility of setting. PCNPs have the opportunity to find employment working alongside doctors in busy hospitals or run their own practice in their home city. In a hospital, PCNPs may find that the environment is much more hectic and demanding than private practice.

There is a high intake of patients daily, which means multiple personalities and a wide variety of health issues. In private practice, PCNPs may work alone or with other healthcare professionals in smaller, less busy facilities. There is likely to be a steady intake of patients, most of which are regular and known to the NP.

On a typical work day, the primary care nurse practitioner has a standard responsibility to patients to perform essential health-related tests and assessments. No two patients are ever alike, so professionals in this field should be prepared to utilize excellent problem solving skills within short time frames. Some of the other responsibilities of the PCNP are listed below.

  • Diagnose and Manage Common Acute and Chronic Health Problems
  • Order and Interpret Diagnostic Tests
  • Write Prescriptions
  • Conduct Physical Exams and Minor in-office Procedures
  • Promote Wellness and Health Management for Individuals from Various Backgrounds

Now that you have a complete picture of the career and education required for a primary care nurse practitioner, you can decide if this is the path you want to take.