Nurse practitioners and physician assistants help the doctor. Their scale of pay is roughly the same, and both these professionals can diagnose diseases, order tests, and prescribe medicines. They also work in the same types of healthcare facilities. But there’s a difference between these professionals. Here is a nurse practitioner vs physician assistant comparison that will help you make the right career choice:
- The first difference is in the training. Most schools require budding PAs to hold a Bachelor of Science degree. A physician assistant is almost like a doctor and therefore studies the medical aspects of healthcare. A PA’s studies and clinical rotations focus on the medical side of health care and the PA first trains to help and double up as a general practitioner. A PA passes his exams, obtains a state license and starts practice. The road’s much tougher for a nurse practitioner. A student has to first obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and become a Registered Nurse. Every nurse practitioner school requires students to have nursing experience before enrolling for a nurse practitioner program and nursing professionals typically obtain 10 years (on an average) nursing experience before enrolling for a nurse practitioner program. Nurse practitioners are therefore not fresh out of school. They also hold advanced degrees (master’s or Ph.D.s).
- A physician assistant always works under the supervision of a doctor while a nurse practitioner works independently – all nurse practitioners are regarded as independent practitioners. Nurse practitioners can be entrepreneurs, while physician assistants cannot set up their own practice. However, a nurse practitioner cannot set up an independent practice if the state requires his/her to collaborate with a licensed physician. That said, a nursing practitioner is more independent than a physician assistant. It is also obvious that a fresh nursing practitioner has more experience and practical knowledge than a fresh physician assistant.
- Physician assistants can specialize in different branches of medicine and are given the opportunity to move from one specialty to another. Nurse practitioners, like PAs, too can choose from any medical specialty. These professionals typically choose one specialty and stick to it.
- A nursing practitioner can prescribe all types of drugs. Some states restrict PAs from prescribing certain medicines.
- If a PA goes wrong, his/her supervising doctor is responsible for his/her PA’s errors. However, when a nursing practitioner commits a mistake, the responsibility always rests on his/her shoulders.
- A PA is always there to help – he/she is always present in a hospital or a physician’s clinic. A nurse practitioner is an independent professional and has to be separately contracted.
- Finally, a physician assistant’s work hours depend on the work allotted to him/her and are tied to the supervising doctor’s work hours. As the nurse practitioner is independent, he/she can decide his/her own working hours.
These are the main factors in the comparison of nurse practitioners vs physician assistants. Other than these, everything else is mostly the same. Both these professionals can diagnose medical conditions, order tests, prescribe medicines, monitor the patient’s progress etc. However, the PA always performs his/her duties under the supervision of his/her doctor. This is all there is on the nurse practitioner vs physician assistant topic.