What Is The Difference Between A Physician Assistant and A Nurse Practitioner?

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners both work within the healthcare field. Each cares for and listens to patients in order to formulate a proper healthcare plan or diagnosis. Both a physician assistant and a nurse practitioner can write medication prescriptions as well. While the two career fields share similar qualities, the responsibilities and training for a physician assistant and a nurse practitioner are quite different.

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants are responsible for many tasks, while working underneath the supervision of a physician. Physician assistants are medical professionals who practice specific medical tasks within hospitals, nursing homes, government agencies, and correctional institutions. Physicians, much like nurse practitioners, can order diagnostic and laboratory tests for a patient.

Physician assistants also examine patients, perform suturing, and practice preventive care. Physician assistants can choose to specialize within specific areas of medicine, such as pediatrics or emergency care.

In order to become a physician assistant, you will need to enroll in an accredited physician assistant program. Prior to enrolling in a physician assistant program, you will need to obtain a Bachelor’s degree and some experience within the medical field, such as a nurse, paramedic, or medical technician. Typically, physician assistant programs take approximately twenty-six months to complete.

Throughout a physician assistant’s coursework and clinical training, they will prepare for clinical. A physician assistant program allows a prospective physician assistant to specialize within a specific area of medicine, while learning the various facets of medical care. For example, physician assistants may explore topics such as pharmacology, research methods, emergency medicine, surgical techniques, and pathology.

A physician assistant will receive clinical training within the areas of general surgery, behavioral medicine, and gynecology. Once a physician assistant completes their program, it is imperative they become licensed through the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). The PANCE exam will explore various surgical and medical comprehension topics.

Once a physician assistant passes the PANCE exam, they will become Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C).

Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner can work independently from a doctor, whereas a physician assistant cannot work independently from a doctor. A nurse practitioner can choose to specialize within a specific area of discipline, such as family care, behavioral health, geriatrics, women’s health, neonatal, or acute care. A nurse practitioner will first sit with a patient or family member of the patient to discuss family health history.

A patient with health issues will be physically examined by the nurse practitioner and determine if any laboratory testing is necessary. Laboratory tests may include urine tests, blood tests, or imaging tests. Nurse practitioners will analyze and interpret the testing results in order to determine a medical diagnosis.

As a nurse practitioner, you are able to order laboratory exams for patients and prescribe a patient medication. Nurse practitioners work closely with patients in order to provide them with care, while collaborating with doctors, if necessary, to formulate a critical healthcare plan for the patient.

In order to become a nurse practitioner, you must first obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, also known as a BSN. Throughout your academic coursework, you will explore topics such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biology, pharmacology, and medical terminology. The bulk of your nursing academic coursework will include hands-on, clinical training at a healthcare facility.

Your clinical training will be absolutely vital to your learning, as you will be working directly with patients, while learning how to properly care for a patient. Once you have completed your Bachelor’s degree, it is imperative that you obtain your nursing license by taking the NCLEX-RN exam.

After you become a licensed, registered nurse, you will need to obtain a Master’s degree in Nursing in order to become a nurse practitioner. Throughout your graduate coursework, you may study topics such as patho-physiology, epidemiology, advanced pharmacology, patient care management, nursing research, and advanced physical assessment.

A nurse practitioner program can take up to three years to complete. You will focus on mass casualty care, chronic healthcare management, differential diagnosis, economics of healthcare, and biostatistics. Upon completing your Master’s degree, you will need to pass certification and licensure exams in order to legally practice as a nurse practitioner.

Career Spotlight: Physician Assistant

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