Physician Assistant vs Nurse Practitioner


You get to your doctors office and they tell you that you’re seeing a Physician Assistant or a Nurse Practitioner instead of the Physician you’ve met once before and you don’t know what kind of care they’re able to provide. You’re in undergraduate school and you want to become a health care professional but don’t want the commitment of medical school. Today I’m here to talk on some of the core differences between Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners are. Let’s get to the basics:

Physician Assistants are graduates from an accredited PA program and have taken the PANCE certification exam in order to practice under a supervising Physician. The PANCE is a general medical examination that covers all areas. Physician Assistants must acquire state licensure, continuing education credits, and must re-certify every 10 years via the PANRE exam and complete a number of continuing education credits. Physician Assistants are not required to uphold residency upon passing the certification examination but are able to work in specialized areas such as surgery, acute care, emergency medicine, pediatrics, etc. Physician Assistants are educated on the medical model which focuses on diseases, the pathology, and the biology of them. Physician Assistants complete about 1000 didactic hours and more than 2,000 clinical hours. 

Nurse Practitioners are graduates from an accredited Bachelors program and Masters or Doctorate program. Nurse Practitioners are taught according to the nursing model which focuses on looking at the patient as a whole, disease prevention, and health education. Nurse Practitioners must pass a national exam before practicing that is usually more specific to a population like geriatrics, pediatrics, or any area of their choice and must have practical experience as a Registered Nurse before qualifying (usually two years). Nurse Practitioners must either re-certify every 5 years or complete 1000 hours of clinical practice and a number of continuing education units in their specialty. Nurse Practitioners complete 500 didactic hours and 500-700 clinical hours. Nurse Practitioners are able to practice under state discretion without a supervising physician.

Both Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners are able to diagnose and treat, obtain patient history and physicals, prescribe medications, counsel patients, perform various medical procedures, order and interpret lab tests, and teach preventative health. So, don’t feel hesitant if you’re seeing a PA or NP, they are very educated and well qualified to take care of you! It may be hard if you’re looking at choosing a career path in one of these mid-level providers, but try to see which one matches the best with your personality, work styles, goals, and what you want to do long term. 

Thanks for reading!

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