The physician’s assistant (PA) and nurse practitioner (NP) roles share a lot in common. Many people might think they are the same position. However, there are distinctions between them, such as their scope of practice and level of autonomy.
In this blog post, we will explore:
- What is a physician’s assistant?
- What is a nurse practitioner?
- How are these roles similar?
- How are these roles different?
- How do you become a physician’s assistant?
- How do you become a nurse practitioner?
- How much does a nurse practitioner make?
- How much does a physician’s assistant make?
What is a physician’s assistant?
A physician’s assistant is a clinician who diagnoses illnesses, develops and manages treatment plans, prescribes medications, and often serves as the patient’s primary healthcare provider. They have accumulated thousands of training hours to help make them versatile and knowledgeable.
They can also practice in every state, medical setting, and specialty to provide quality care for patients.
What is a nurse practitioner?
A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse who diagnoses and treats health conditions. In their role, they also work to help prevent diseases and provide health management. In many states, they often work autonomously and specialize in different areas such as pediatric or women’s health.
How are these roles similar?
Both roles share similarities and in many ways, they offer the same services a physician does. Below are some of the ways the jobs are similar.
Duties: PAs and NPs both diagnose, treat illnesses, prescribe medication, and provide disease management.
Setting: PAs and NPs work in doctor’s offices (some NPs have their own offices), hospitals, and clinics.
Education: As advanced practice positions, these roles require at minimum a master’s degree.
Specialization: Each position can specialize, though PAs are educated in all aspects of medicine, whereas the nurse practitioner typically chooses a specialty.
How are these roles different?
These two roles differ primarily in the models they practice under. PAs go to medical school and are trained in the medical model while NPs are trained in nursing programs under the nursing model.
The medical model focuses on the illness or disease the patient has. PAs work to treat the specific condition. In other words, the medical model primarily focuses on the physical and biological dimensions of diseases and conditions.
The nursing model emphasizes the impact the diagnosis has on the whole patient. Nurse practitioners consider the human aspects that will change because of the diagnosis.
Though they differ in their models, both roles work together to help address the patient’s needs.
Additionally, these two roles differ because nurse practitioners can work and prescribe independently in some states, while physician’s assistants work under the supervision of a physician.
The two roles have different educational requirements for graduating. On average, the PA program requires 1,933 clinical hours, while the NP program requires 720 clinical hours.
How do you become a physician’s assistant?
- Complete a bachelor’s degree program
The first step is completing a bachelor’s degree program, which typically takes four years. Some PAs will choose to stay an extra year to ensure all prerequisites count toward an advanced degree.
- Gain healthcare experience
Most PA programs seek out candidates who either have healthcare experience or patient care experience. Healthcare experience involves work where you are not directly responsible for a patient’s care.
Once you gain experience within the healthcare field—most PAs earn about 3,000 hours within the healthcare field—you can start applying for schools.
- Graduate and pass the PANCE
Once you graduate from an accredited PA program, you can take the PANCE (Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam). The PANCE test contains 300 questions. You have five hours to complete five 60-question sections. After you pass the PANCE, you are ready to become a PA.
How do you become a nurse practitioner?
- Become a registered nurse
- Gain experience
Like the physician’s assistant role, potential nurse practitioners must gain experience in the field of nursing before applying to a graduate program.
- Earn your Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice
- Pass the certification exam within your specialty
Every nurse practitioner must choose a specialty. Your specialty will determine what type of certification exam you will take.
- Obtain state licensure
Once you pass the exam within your specialty, you must send in your results and graduate program transcripts to obtain an NP license.
How much does a nurse practitioner make?
In May 2020, the BLS reported that nurse practitioners make $117,670 per year. Here’s a breakdown of the nurse practitioner salaries by state.
How much does a physician’s assistant make?
In May 2020, the BLS reported that physician’s assistants make $115,390 per year.
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