Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have advanced training in health assessment, health promotion and illness prevention. They diagnose and treat health problems, order and interpret tests, and prescribe drugs.

Also Known As:Nurse
NOC Number(s):3152
Minimum Education:6 years post-secondary education/training
Employment Outlook:Job openings: turnover plus new jobs due to above average growth in occupation in Alberta 2013-2017
Interests:S M D

Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Related Legislation | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study


Duties and responsibilities in this occupation vary from province to province in Canada. In Alberta, nurse practitioners may:

  • complete advanced, comprehensive and focused health assessments
  • diagnose health problems
  • support and counsel patients regarding health problems
  • manage and implement patient care across the lifespan
  • manage complex chronic illness
  • order and interpret diagnostic investigations
  • critically evaluate the best evidence for care available
  • read, synthesize and integrate research into their practice
  • refer patients to other health care providers as needed
  • prescribe medications to treat diseases, disorders and injuries
  • consult and collaborate with physicians and other professionals 
  • participate in initiatives to promote community health and prevention of illness and injury.

Nurse practitioners work independently across the continuum of health services. They may work primarily with adults, children or families, or work in specific areas such as:

  • acute care
  • primary care
  • community health (including urban and rural community clinics and nursing outposts)
  • long-term care
  • caring for people in particular age groups (infants, children, seniors)
  • specialty units and clinics (for example, cancer care, mental health, occupational health, palliative care, women's health)
  • emergency care. 

Working Conditions

Nurse practitioners work in a variety of health care settings, sometimes in isolated communities. They may work regular clinic hours and be on call for emergencies, or work shifts including nights, weekends and holidays.

Nurse practitioners often are exposed to infectious diseases and chemicals, and are required to handle items weighing up to 20 kilograms. Their work can be intellectually and emotionally demanding as well as physically demanding.

Personal Characteristics

Nurse practitioners need the following characteristics:

  • problem solving and critical thinking skills
  • excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • excellent organizational skills
  • good judgment and the ability to make decisions quickly in stressful situations
  • patience, understanding and a caring attitude
  • flexibility and enthusiasm
  • the ability to lead and work co-operatively with others
  • general good health.

They should enjoy working with and consulting others, solving problems, providing care and directing the work of others.

Educational Requirements

Nurse practitioners start their careers as registered nurses. After 4500 hours of clinical nursing experience, the recommended education route is a master's degree in advanced nursing practice.

In Alberta, the following post-secondary institutions offer master's degree programs in nursing:

  • Athabasca University offers a distance education program that prepares primary care nurse practitioners. Entrance requirements include a Canadian bachelor's degree in nursing or equivalent with a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 (based on a 4.0 system) in the final 30 credits, and at least two years of professional nursing experience. There are computer system requirements for this program. Students complete 700 clinical hours with a preceptor.
  • the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Entrance requirements include an average of at least 3.0 in the last 10 full course equivalents of a bachelor's degree program in nursing, or equivalent, undergraduate courses in statistics and research methods, and at least one year of related clinical nursing experience.
  • the University of Calgary. The entrance requirement is an average of at least 3.0 in the last two years of full time study of a bachelor's degree program in nursing, or equivalent, undergraduate courses in statistics and research methods, and at least three years of related clinical experience. The University of Calgary also has a post-master's Nurse Practitioner continuous learning initiative. Qualified applicants may be allowed to take the Master of Nursing program and the Nurse Practitioner program concurrently.

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.

For information about bachelor's degree programs in nursing, see the Registered Nurse occupational profile.

Prior to becoming a registered nurse practitioner, applicants must pass the required national registration exam.

Related Legislation

Under current legislation in Alberta, only members of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA) on the nurse practitioner roster may call themselves or practice as a Nurse Practitioner.

Employment and Advancement

Nurse practitioners are employed in health care facilities such as hospitals, community based health centres and clinics. Many work in small or remote communities that do not have resident physicians.

Nurse practitioner is not an entry level position.

Nurse practitioners are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 3152: Registered Nurses.  In Alberta, 96 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 34,500 Albertans are employed in the Registered Nurses occupational group which is expected to have an annual above average growth of 3.3 per cent from 2013 to 2017 in Alberta. It is forecasted that about 1,139 new positions will be created each year in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. (Note: Since nurse practitioners form only a part of the larger occupational group on which this forecast is based, only a portion of the new positions created will be for nurse practitioners.)

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised November 2013


Nurse practitioners are exempt from nursing unions and therefore negotiate their own salaries.

Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

EDinfo website:

College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA) website:

Related Occupational Profiles
Community Health Nurse
Registered Nurse

Related High School Subjects
English Language Arts; Health, Recreation and Human Services (Community Care Services; Health Care Services; and Human and Social Services); Mathematics; and Science (Biology; and Chemistry)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Health Care and Medical Sciences

Produced August 2010
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.

Government of Alberta, Human Services