Nurse Practitioner Specialties: Which One is for You?

Nurse Practitioner Specialties: Which One is for You?

As you likely already know, becoming a Nurse Practitioner (NP) opens many doors. You could provide primary, acute and specialty health care to a wide range of patient types. In fact, that’s one of the unique aspects of the NP path. NPs are educated in a specific patient population focus. Then, they are required to pursue certification to care for those types of patients.

A Little Background

In an attempt to simplify and achieve national uniformity in the field of Advanced Practice Registered Nursing, the APRN Consensus Model was born. Today, Nurse Practitioners are one of the four APRN roles and are required to hold national certification in one or more of six patient population focus areas:

  1. Family
  2. Adult-Gerontology
  3. Pediatrics
  4. Neonatal
  5. Women’s Health/Gelder-Related
  6. Psychiatric/Mental Health

If you’re trying to decide on a clinical focus area for your MSN Nurse Practitioner program, here’s a quick overview:

Family Nurse Practitioner

The large majority of NPs are Family Nurse Practitioners, working in primary care most often. The AANP reports that the top clinical setting of the FNP is the hospital outpatient clinic setting. Family Nurse Practitioners serve patients of all ages throughout their different life stages.


The APRN Consensus Model retired separate Adult NP and Gerontological NP exams/certification pathways and combined this patient population focus: the Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (nurses can become certified as Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NPs and/or Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NPs). Demand continues to grow for these types of NPs due to the growth of America’s aging population. Their work focuses on helping adult and geriatric adult patients manage and overcome a range of illnesses and conditions.


The Pediatric NP specializes in working with children (newborn to young adulthood), either as a primary care provider or in the acute care setting, managing critical, chronic and acute illnesses. Most NPs that specialize in pediatrics choose the PNP-Primary Care path, whereas a much smaller number go the PNP-Acute Care route.


The Neonatal NP specializes in newborns, infants and toddlers up to the age of two years old. If you’re interested in working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, this is the Nurse Practitioner patient focus you’ll want to pursue in school. This is a niche specialization, less common than the Pediatric NP.

Women’s Health

Women’s Health NPs are experts in health promotion and disease prevention for women. They also are skilled at helping women patients manage chronic health conditions and other problems. Women’s Health NPs usually work in a primary care office setting. Generally, Women’s Health NP programs are decreasing and being replaced by generalist programs.*

Psychiatric/Mental Health

Mental health nurse practitioners with an MSN perform many of the same tasks as psychiatrists. That includes diagnosing complex mental health problems, psychotherapy, prescribing psychiatric drugs and more. The Psychiatric NP might work in a hospital, a mental health/psychiatric facility, a home healthcare organization or a private medical practice.

Note that the Acute Care NP is no longer a certification option because it does not focus on a specific patient population (per the aforementioned effort of the APRN Consensus Model). Still, there are many ACNPs that have been grandfathered in.

As mentioned, Nurse Practitioners might be certified in more than one area and even within these specialties, one could even specialize further. For example, nurses might consider the Pediatric Endocrinology Nurse Practitioner route, working with children who suffer from endocrine system-related diseases such as diabetes.

As you can tell, there are many options available to you if you are interested in becoming a Nurse Practitioner. American Sentinel University offers three Nurse Practitioner specialty tracks, Adult Gerontology Primary Care NP, Family NP and Psychiatric Mental Health NP. We are currently developing a Psychiatric NP program. Browse these programs online and join us for our upcoming Nurse Practitioner Open House! We’d love to share more about the many career options available to NPs and how we can help you get your NP career off on the right foot.

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Information drawn from American Association of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Journal.

*According to the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health

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