Nurse Practitioners VS. Physician Assistants

Home > Nurse Practitioners VS. Physician Assistants

March 22, 2016 | Aptus Associates

Alright, we’re not actually looking to pit nurse practitioners and physician assistants against each other. We just want to show you how the two differ in the world of medicine more so than if one or the other is better. Let’s take a look at each one.

One of the main differences between the two is that Nurse Practitioners (NP) go to nursing school while Physician Assistants (PA) study at a medical school. Both require a master’s degree for certification. Subsequently, the values instilled in each schooling system varies slightly. Nurses (or NPs) are usually taught to be more patient-centered and tend to focus on health education and prevention, making the patient comfortable and knowledgeable. Physician assistants (these haven’t completed a PhD. program to become an MD) are more centered on diseases, diagnosis, and treatment.

The differences in viewpoints also shows you the differences in practicing choices. NPs usually pick a practice or specialty based on the type of patient (pediatrics, OB/GYN, etc.) while PAs pick a sector based on the type of medicine practiced (gastroenterology, emergency medicine, podiatry, etc.)

Nurse practitioners must first become Registered Nurses (RNs) before stepping up to be an NP. Just like with nurses and physicians, NPs and PAs have plenty of classroom and clinical time, although it’s proportional to the position. NPs usually require less clinical time PAs need to become certified.

Another big difference is their ability to practice. Usually, PAs can practice only under the supervision of a physician while an NP can (depending on the state) most likely practice just like a physician would. Although each state has a different view on the matter, both can do many things that a doctor would be able to do, including prescribing medications, although a request at the state level may need to be sent for authorization of certain tasks like prescribing controlled substances.

There’s plenty to differentiate an NP and a PA but the main thing to take away is the variety in their education. Nursing school for Nurse Practitioners focuses a great deal more on the patient’s interest and education on preventative matters. Medical school, on the other hand, is known for teaching Physician Assistants about diagnosing, treating, and eliminating diseases and illnesses.

Either could be incredibly beneficial, depending on your practice type. Knowing the differences in the two is the first step to knowing which one might be a better fit for your office.