Physician’s Assistant vs. Nurse Practitioner

Physicians assistant and nurse practitioner, both are healthcare providers who work under the supervision of doctors. Basically, these are the health care professions who work closely with patients, and provide specialty care and medical advice without becoming a doctor. However, physician assistants and nurse practitioners both provide healthcare hence they may seem to refer to the same occupation. However, this is not the case. There are some differences between the duties and qualifications required by each profession. Let’s compare the role and responsibilities of a physician assistant and nurse practitioner.

Physician assistant vs. Nurse Practitioner – The Major Differences

1. Responsibilities and Expertise

A physician assistant (PA) assists physicians and performs a variety of duties such as diagnosing and treating patients, ordering tests, prescribing medications (under the supervision of a licensed doctor) and reading X-rays. There are various specialized courses for physician assistants such as geriatrics, pediatrics, orthopedics, emergency medicines, etc, which would enable them to become a certified physician’s assistant. Despite such advanced and specialized training, PA are not authorized to start any independent practice; they can only work under the supervision of physicians.

A nurse practitioner may have similar responsibilities as physician assistant such as performing diagnostic tests on patients, diagnosing the disease, creating treatment plans and prescribing medications. In contrast to physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners can work independently and can offer advanced nursing and health care services. Nurse practitioners are basically registered nurses who have additional clinical experience and hands-on knowledge related to the treatment and diagnosis of disease, allowing them to start their independent practice settings.

2. Educational Requirements

The job duties of physician assistants and nurse practitioners are somewhat similar but their education and certification requirements vary. In order to become a physician’s assistant, individuals must have an Associate’s degree in Physician Assistant and they must pass the Physician assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), which is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

On the other hand, in order to become a nurse practitioner you require a Master’s of Science degree in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nurse Practitioner (DNP) in specialty area of nursing such as adult practice, family practice, pediatrics or women’s health. Moreover, you also require a nursing license by the state. Nurse practitioners are required to become certified in a specialty through a national certifying organization, such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), to be eligible to practice as a nurse practitioner.

3. Job Outlook

Unlike nurse practitioners, PAs must earn state licensure, whose rules and regulations vary from state to state. Physician assistants can work in hospitals, doctors’ offices or other healthcare facilities but only under the supervision of qualified doctors. Physician assistants can perform their duties during medical emergencies such as in automobile accidents, or in emergency rooms and can also assist during surgeries.

In contrast to physician assistants, nurse practitioners can work in all healthcare settings and can easily treat and diagnose common ailments or medical problems. They are authorized to prescribe medications, order tests and they focus on disease prevention and health maintenance.

4. Expected Salaries

According to the American Academy of Physician’s Assistants, physician assistants work approximately 32 hours a week and can earn $69,000 annually. While according to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, NPs work approximately 36 hours a week and may earn up to $74,000 annually.

I hope, after reading the above mentioned points you will have a better understanding of how a Physician assistant differs from a Nurse Practitioner. Physician assistant and nurse practitioner both are rewarding healthcare professions and possess their own significance and value. It is up to you to choose the field according to your goals and personal interests.