There are many levels to the nursing practice, roles, and knowledge. Specialty nursing practice and advanced practice nursing are practices that are similar but very different in certain aspects. Even though both practices involve direct patient care, their roles in healthcare differ. To begin with, specialty nursing involves expanding knowledge in a specialized area, such as trauma nursing (Hamric, Hanson, Tracy, & O’Grady, 2014). Nurses who specialize in a particular area have extensive knowledge and experience in their given area of practice. On the other hand, advanced practice nursing not only involves specialization, but it also entails educational advancement. Advanced practice nurses must receive formal graduate level education while specialty nurses receive on-the-job training or hospital-based training courses (Hamric, Hanson, Tracy, & O’Grady, 2014). Because advanced practice nurses receive formal education, their level of knowledge is greater than that of a specialty nurse because their education covers more information and includes that of various specialties.

The scope of practice of an advanced practice nurse and a specialty nurse also differs greatly. While both practices provide care to patients, advanced practice nurses are able to provide a broadened scope of practice while specialty nurses are focus on a specific area. The scope of practice from advanced practice nurses is standardized and allow for practice to be utilized to its fullest potential regarding education, training, and certification (Scope of Practice, 2016). For example, an advanced practice nurse is licensed to treat patients with various conditions, such as heart failure or diabetes, while specialty nurses work in a specific area, such as trauma or wound care. The population focus of specialty nurses is narrow compared to that of advanced practice nurses; however, advanced practice nurses may also be specialized in a specific population such as family and individuals across the lifespan, adult-gerontology, pediatrics, neonatal, women’s health and gender related, and psychological and mental health (Hamric, Hanson, Tracy, & O’Grady, 2014). Also, advanced practice nurses not only have more education, but they are able to diagnose, manage, and treat patients using evidence-based practices while providing leadership and ethical decision making characteristics as opposed to specialty nurses (Hamric, Hanson, Tracy, & O’Grady, 2014).

Lastly, credentialing and regulation go hand-in-hand when providing licensure to advanced practice nurses. According to the framers of the Consensus Model for APRN regulation, licensing was based on level of role and population focus (Hamric, Hanson, Tracy, & O’Grady, 2014). The level of role includes certified nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse practitioner, and the population focus includes family and individuals across the lifespan, adult-gerontology, pediatrics, neonatal, women’s health and gender related, and psychological and mental health (Hamric, Hanson, Tracy, & O’Grady, 2014). Even though advanced practice nurses receive formal graduate education, which must be from a program accredited by the American Board of Nursing Specialties or the National Commission for Certification Agencies, they must complete clinical hours, as well as successfully pass an assessment of professional knowledge in their population focus (National Certification Expectations for Entry-Level NPs, n.d.). On the other hand, specialty nurse receives their licensure by completing courses and passing exams focused on their specialty.


Hamric, A. B., Hanson, C. M., Tracy, M. F., & O’Grady, E. T. (2014). Advanced practice nursing: an integrative approach. St. Louis: Elsevier.

National Certification Expectations for Entry-Level NPs. (n.d.). American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Retrieved from

Scope of Practice. (2016). American Nurses Association. Retrieved from