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The ABCs of APPs: What Is An Advanced Practice Provider?

November 08, 2021

Angel R. Lampkin-Kwabena, APRN-NP, NNP-BC, MA, is a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at Lurie Children's.

Often when patient families visit Lurie Children’s for an appointment, they see an Advanced Practice Provider (APP), an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) or a Physician Assistant (PA).

Lurie Children’s has over 300 APPs represented in all specialty areas. Several specialty areas have independent clinics with APNs who run them, including the Divisions of Allergy, Dermatology, Endocrinology Orthopaedic Surgery/Sports Medicine and Urology, among many others.

APPs treat children with a range of illnesses and conditions, from ear infections to recovery from heart transplants. They coordinate patients’ care with other pediatric specialists to ensure each patient receives the care they need. APPs prescribe medications and therapies, participate in research and publishing scientific studies. They also act as leaders and mentor other health care providers.

So, what exactly does it take to become an APP, and how are they different from a doctor?

Read more below for answers to some common questions about APPs, with answers from Marleta Reynolds, MD, Surgeon-in-Chief at Lurie Children’s; Julie Ann Creaden, APRN-NP, Senior Director, Center for Advanced Practice; and Elizabeth Hood, RN, MS, MBA, APRN-NP, CPNP, Advance Practice Nurse/Senior Director, Pediatric Surgery.

What does it mean to be an Advanced Practice Provider?

Julie Ann Creaden: Advanced Practice Providers include Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) and Physician Assistants (PAs.) APPs work collaboratively with the healthcare team to provide comprehensive care to patients and families. 

APRNs are registered nurses nationally certified and state licensed nursing

Julie Ann Creaden, APRN-NP

professionals who receive graduate education beyond their four-year Bachelor of Science and nursing degree. APRNs prescribe medications, order and interpret diagnostic testing, diagnose and treat illnesses and provide patient and family education. APRNs are regulated primarily by state boards of nursing. The authority given by state licensure varies based on state law and state board of nursing regulations.

Elizabeth Hood: There are three types of advanced practice nursing roles at Lurie Children’s. They include:

Nurse practitioners (NPs). Nurse practitioners serve as primary and specialty care providers who can diagnose and treat illnesses.

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). CRNAs specialize in providing anesthesia and sedation. They usually work in an operating room alongside surgeons and nurses.

Physician assistants (PAs). PAs are nationally certified and state-licensed medical professionals. PAs see patients along with a health care team that includes a physician and other providers. Certified PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventative healthcare, assist in surgery and prescribe medications.

How is an APP different than a doctor?

Julie Ann Creaden: In general, APPs have 2-4 years of schooling beyond a bachelor’s degree, while doctors generally complete four additional years, along with a required residency for training. Like physicians, APPs must be board certified in their area of specialty by a nationally approved certifying body. Also like physicians, APPs must participate in educational workshops and classes each year to maintain their active license status and continuing education

Do Lurie Children’s APPs have special training in pediatrics? Why is that important?

Elizabeth Hood: Many of our Lurie Children’s nurse practitioners specialized in

Elizabeth Hood, RN, MS, MBA, APRN-NP, CPNP

pediatrics as part of their training programs. Others specialized in family health and did pediatrics as one of their clinical rotations. All of the APPs, however, receive specialized on the job training once they arrive at Lurie Children’s, including competency assessment and an orientation with mentoring by experienced APPs and doctors.  

Why might patients see an APP at Lurie Children’s rather than a doctor?

Elizabeth Hood: During your stay or an ambulatory visit, chances are you will interact with an APP because our providers work collectively in a team-based care model. Depending on the nature of your visit, your first and only encounter may be with an APP who has training and expertise in their specialty. APPs manage many diagnosis and conditions as well as coordinate and facilitate care with other services. As noted previously, APPs are able to prescribe medicine, order tests, interpret test results and help educate patient families on treatment and care.

Why are APPs important at Lurie Children’s?

Dr. Marleta Reynolds: Ensuring that patients get the timely healthcare is one of our central priorities, and APPs are an integral part of this mission. In most divisions at Lurie Children’s, APPs are at the forefront of access to care. Whether they are the first encounter or part of the team-based approach APPs manage many aspects of the patient experience and often times as the expert in a particular condition. 

What else should people know about APPs?

Julie Ann Creaden: All APPs collaborate, consult and partner with all members of the healthcare team.  Many APPs practice in healthcare teams with

Jennifer K. Bosworth, APRN-NP, FNP, Family Nurse Practitioner, Allergy & Immunology, with patient Chloe.

physicians and other types of healthcare providers. At Lurie Children’s, APPs are privileged and credentialed members of the medical staff, and follow the policies and procedures set forth by the medical staff bylaws.

Lurie Children’s also maintains The Center for Advanced Practice Leadership which aims to ensure the best possible growth and development of all APPs so as to provide the best possible care to the patients we have the privilege of serving.