Nurse Practitioner Vs. Physician Assistant

nurse practitionerWhile it is true that both the nurse practitioners and the physician assistants work in the health care environment, the truth is that the job duties and responsibilities associated with these two medical positions are radically different. Both the NPs and the PAs work under the close supervision of the licensed physicians, but those who aspire to become nurse practitioners must choose a different educational path than those who aspire to become physician assistants. That being said, here you will get a deeper insight into the most notable distinctions between the NPs and the PAs.

A Closer Look At The Differences Between the Nurse Practitioner and the Physician Assistant

No matter if you plan to become a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant, you will need to undergo years of theoretical and practical training before you get the chance to work in the health care setting. That being said, both the NPs and the PAs can pursue higher education and can get a Master’s Degree, the main difference is that these health care professionals serve different roles within their workplaces. That being said, the NPs and the PAs can work in private doctors’ offices, community health care settings or state hospitals.

Nurse practitioners, for instance, are fully registered nurses who have received a Master’s Degree in Nursing, and who choose to specialize in one of the many sub-fields of nursing. However, it often happens that nurse practitioners who are committed to making the best of their nursing career apply for a Doctorate Degree in fields like women’s health, family practice, paediatrics and others. The duties and responsibilities of a nurse practitioner vary greatly from those of a physician assistant: having said that, the NP can prescribe medications for treating chronic or acute conditions, can diagnose conditions, can order and interpret x-rays and other diagnostic procedures and can provide high-quality counseling services both to the patient and to the family of the patient. Moreover, the nurse practitioner can decide whether to work independently or in collaboration with a licensed physician – typically, those who choose to pursue the latter career path are hired at local private physicians’ offices, and their yearly average salary is of around $90,000, although this can vary greatly from one state to another.

On the other hand, physician assistants work closely with physicians and they cannot work independently, unlike the nurse practitioners mentioned above. Their role is to diagnose and to treat patients, as well as to administer the treatment exactly as prescribed by the licensed physician, to conduct therapy, to stitch, cast or to splint minor injuries as well as to assist the physician during various medical interventions and procedures. Like nurse practitioners, the physician assistants also have the chance to specialize in one of the many subfields of medicine, such as surgery, family medicine or internal medicine.

There are more than 170 accredited training programs for future PAs across the United States of America, and the curriculum includes thorough courses in fields like gynecology, geriatrics, emergency medicine, medical ethics, family medicine and such. It is important for every physician assistant to earn their licensure, as each US state requires PAs to be properly licensed before they get to legally practice medicine in their state. Also, when it comes to the median yearly wage of these health care professionals, it must be said that physician assistants tend to make more money than nurse practitioners, as their annual wage revolves around the sum of $92,000 or more, depending on the state where they reside as well as their work environment. One thing is for sure: both the physician assistants and the nurse practitioners tend to earn more money in the private sector, as opposed to the public sector.

Differences In Terms Of Education And Certification

physician assistant

Now that you know the main differences in terms of duties, responsibilities and payments, it must be said that one of the most important differences between these two types of medical professionals lies in the required education. Physician assistants typically qualify through a general medical education and they do not need to complete any type of residency. On the other hand, nurse practitioners typically receive a more thorough nursing-oriented training and they also need to have some degree of experience in fields that are closely related to nursing, such as geriatrics or paediatrics.

Also, given the fact that nurse practitioners can work independently, they tend to have more autonomy when it comes to their working hours and they have more flexibility when designing their working schedule, as opposed to the physician assistants whose working schedules usually depend on those of the licensed physician. For example, a nurse practitioner may choose not to work night shifts, weekends or holidays, while the physician assistant is bound to the working schedule of the licensed physician that supervises him.

Moreover, those who want to become nurse practitioners typically need to follow a very well-defined training path, as they have to firstly complete a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program, alongside adequate training. Most states require nurse practitioners to also get a Master’s or a Doctoral degree along with the certification – the certification is provided by two institutions, the AANP (the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners) as well as the ANCC, or the American Nurses Credentialing Center. At the opposite end, physician assistants’ career paths are slightly more flexible and versatile, as they can get a Master’s Degree in Medical Sciences, Health Science, Physician Assistant Studies and many other related fields. They also have to pass the PANCE exam, of the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam, and they have to apply for a recertification every six years, although the requirements can also vary from one state to another.

There are also some slight differences when it comes to the areas of training and specialization for the physician assistants and for the nurse practitioners. For instance, nurse practitioners can specialize in occupational NP, family NP, holistic NP, emergency NP, acute care NP, oncology NP and many others. However, physician assistants are trained in fields like hematology, pathology, clinical medicine, anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology and others, as well as all the other adjacent fields of medicine.

One comment

  • Wilma Morgan-Smith

    I am Certified Occupational Health Nurse and I only have a BSN at present. I would like to become a nurse practioner or PA in Occupational Health. I presently work for the Federal Government. Can this be a reality for me, since I do not have a Maters degree? If, so when and who do I need to talk with?