Differences Between Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners

Differences Between Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners

Difference between PA and NP: The exciting and rewarding thing about the medical industry is that it offers and opens its way to diverse job roles in various medical fields. If one is able to comprehend the differences and similarities between these occupations then it’ll help them know what choice they want to make for their career. The same goes for a physician assistant (PA) and nurse practitioner (NP), which are two popular career selections within the medical field. In the following article, let us understand more about these occupations, who they are, what their job entails, and get to know the major difference between PA and NP.

What is a Physician’s Assistant & Who is a Nurse Practitioner?

Difference between PA and NP: What is a Physician’s Assistant? A PA, which is a common reference for a Physician’s Assistant, is a medical professional who gives direct care to the patients along with other healthcare professionals. The PA conducts assessments on the patients, makes their diagnoses, creates their treatment plans, and monitors the progress. He or she is also required to maintain the patient’s records in detail and provide their families with psychoeducation about the patient’s condition. Although the physician assistant is initially under the guidance of a licensed physician, later on after much experience, they can operate on their own as they become highly skilled in different areas of the medical practice. The work area of a physician assistant can be in a variety of settings, which includes hospitals, doctor’s offices, or outpatient clinics.

Difference between PA and NP: Now that we know what is a Physician’s Assistant, let us learn more about the Nurse Practitioner (NP) as well. NP, short for nurse practitioner, is a very important member of the medical team. They are required to give care to the patient similar to the job of a registered nurse, while also providing advanced medical functions of a physician. While they work in the setting of hospitals, doctors clinics, etc, the nurse practitioners perform physical examinations on their patients, make treatment recommendations for them, prescribe them medication, and help diagnose their illnesses. Along with this, NPS also perform minor surgeries on their patients, refer them to specialists if required, and support their wellness by giving them education or counseling. It is required for NPs to be under the supervision of a physician during their initial stage of practice.

Physician Assistant Vs Nurse Practitioner – Differences between the two.

Difference between PA and NP: While both the job descriptions of a PA and NP may have clear similarities in their job functions and required skill set, there are very apparent and important distinctions between the two. In the following points, we compare these two professions in different criteria:

1. Physician Assistant Vs Nurse Practitioner – Specialization and focus
The one main difference between these two professions is that a physician assistant (PA) operates from a disease-centered orientation, while the nurse practitioner (NP) operates from a view of patient-care orientation. With this following structure, a PA is primarily focused on identifying the root cause of the medical issue that the patient is facing, while the NP’s main focus is to work on the manifestations of that cause in the patients. In addition to this, NPS often specialize in areas like mental health, geriatrics, or women’s health while a PA is a generalist practitioner. Both the profession’s specialization is identified during their graduate programs, with their targeted coursework and the related clinical hours which are required for them to complete.

2. Physician Assistant Vs Nurse Practitioner – Education requirements
Even though there may be similarities in the coursework or clinical requirements, it is the educational requirements that differ in several ways for a physician assistant and nurse practitioner.

When one wants to become a physician assistant, they need to complete a bachelor’s degree in a field related to healthcare science as well as a master’s degree from an accredited PA program. During the master’s programs, which include clinical rotations, the PA students are introduced to a range of specialties where they learn through hands-on experience. Furthermore, they need to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). After their completion of the examination, they receive their professional license that needs to be renewed every 10 years. In order to maintain this certification, the doctor must complete 100 continuing education hours every 2 years.

In order to become a nurse practitioner, the first step for the aspirant is to become a registered nurse (RN) by completing their associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. As well as passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), after which the next step is for them to complete their master’s or their doctoral program in nursing only. Once they have completed their master’s program, they need to earn their Advanced Practice Registered Nursing (APRN) license by passing the certification exam. The APRN license needs to be renewed every 2 years.

3. Physician Assistant Vs Nurse Practitioner – Autonomy

The precise autonomy might vary between the employer and job setting they choose, but still, the physician assistants mostly operate independently from other physicians than the nurse practitioners do. The PAs are able to run their own clinics and they may check in with other physicians as less than as just a few times in a month. Although the same standards are applying for nurse practitioners with time. Today, in the US, currently 20 states grant what is known as “full practice authority” to the nurse practitioners, authorizing them to evaluate, diagnose, treat and manage patient illness independently while in India, this is a notion that still does not exist.

Nurse Practitioner Vs Physician Assistant – Other Differences

Difference between PA and NP: Here are some more key distinctions between PA and NP to help aspiring candidates decide which is a better option for them.

1. Nurse Practitioner Vs Physician Assistant – Independence
The way that the law or regulatory bodies view an NP or PA differs on the independence of their profession. While a nurse practitioner is considered as an independent medical practitioner and is licensed, some states allow/authorize them to practice fully under the state’s nursing board. This only applies to the US and not India. Nurse practitioners in India aren’t yet licensed to practice on their own. The Nursing Practice Act, 1947 doesn’t have a provision for the advanced practice nurse or nurse practitioner titles in our country. There is no legislature proposed to date that can help to create a defined advanced or independent nursing role.

As for a physician assistant, the relationship between a physician assistant and the physician they are collaborating with is used for licensing. This prevents the physician assistant from pursuing practice independently. Although once the PA is working in a clinical setting, then they can have a great deal of independence on a daily basis. Although, while they may work under a physician who makes rare visits to the clinic led by the PA only a few times in a month, many of the PAs have very little to no direct contact with the MDs while caring for their patients on a daily basis.

2. Nurse Practitioner Vs Physician Assistant – Professional organizations
Nursing practitioners can increase their value further by joining national organizations and earning certifications in front of their current or future employers, which in some cases may be required. Although, the nursing career options one may choose can also determine which national bodies are available for them to practice in.

For a physician assistant, the PANCE is required and is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). A nursing practitioner would instead seek for certifications in their specialty and may even choose to not opt for either the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) certifications.

3.Physician Assistant Vs Nurse Practitioner – Salary
As far as the salaries are concerned of both of these professionals, it typically depends on their geographical location or their work setting, and the level of education and specialization they join with.

For PAs:
The salary of a PA varies, based on their education and their work experience. Initially, at the starting of their career, the average salary may range between Rs. 3-4 lakhs per annum. Although, with the increase in the years of experience it may go up to Rs. 6-8 lakhs per annum.

For NPS:
The salaries for Nurse Practitioners in India vary depending on their skills, experience, gender, or location where they practice. A person working as a Nurse Practitioner in India can typically earn around Rs. 4-5 lakhs per annum. This figure may range lower or higher depending on the above factors.

Going From Being a Registered Nurse to Physician Assistant

Registered Nurse to Physician Assistant: The prerequisites are an area that can work as a potential advantage for the candidate who wants to shift to becoming a PA and is already licensed as an RN. The nurses do most of their prerequisites at the RN level and PA programs require the students to enter with a complete bachelor’s degree and to have completed a few foundational courses. It is a given that a person with a Bachelor of Science in nursing would have already completed more of the prerequisites over a person who has completed their bachelor’s degree in some other field. The RNs would have completed their foundational course in natural sciences like anatomy, physiology, or chemistry and would have a strong foundation in research and statistics as well.

Registered Nurse to Physician Assistant: If one wants to bridge the gap from Registered Nurse to Physician Assistant, it would pay to do their research on programs beforehand and know the profile of other PA students or what backgrounds do individual programs value the most.

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Content for MD:
Difference between PA and NP- Nurse practitioners are educated to serve a specific population while Physician assistants have a more general background.

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