Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant

The profession of a nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA) have been categorized as similar occupations. Those in undergrad school may be conflicted in which career career option best matches an undergrads interests. Although a nurse practitioner trains on a nurse pathway and focuses on diagnosis, testing, and treating a patient. Whereas a physician assistant trains on a medical pathway but consists of performing diagnoses, testing, and treating a patient. The three factors that distinguish between an NP and PA are the education and program required, job duty, job outlook, and certification.

To become an NP, a master’s degree in nursing is required which typically take two years. Some master of science in nursing programs require a certain amount of experience, a bachelor of science in nursing, along with a registered nurse license (RN).

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According to Dent, nursing programs usually make up about 500 classroom hours and between 500 to 700 clinical hours. Furthermore, nurse practitioner programs require for individuals to be licensed either through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education on Nursing. Lastly, recertification of nurse practitioners has required of 75 to 100 educational credits and 1,000 clinical hours every five years in order to continue practicing the profession. (“NP vs PA”). According to Dent to become a PA, it is typically required to complete PA school and have experience with some medical occupation such as a certified nurse or an emergency medical technician.

Additionally, PA programs typically consist of 1,000 classroom hours and 2,000 or more clinical hours. PA programs are based on a fast track of medical training, so overall a PA has all inquiry of information a physician does. Additionally, PA school typically runs from 24 to 27 months long. Also, being a PA requires recertification every ten years of 100 credit hours and pass the recertification test implemented every five years within the renewal cycle. PA’s must also log the credited hours for recertification through the National Commission of Certification of Physician Assistants”. (“NP vs PA”) As for an NP, many tasks or duties are enacted in this career choice. NPs provide health care services with certain limits depending if working independently or with the collaboration with a physician. Nurse practitioners are patient-centered, so typically this career focuses on health promotion, disease prevention, and patient education. This job mainly consists of providing general and preventative care to patients in clinical facilities or hospitals. Typical tasks on an everyday routine for an NP are check-ups, treatment for illnesses, the order of lab tests, and prescribe medication to patients.

All in all, nurse practitioners provide general family care. Conversely, PA job duties are similar but also different to those of a nurse practitioner. Physician assistants follow a more medical model that is patient focused. As stated on NurseJournal, “While nurse practitioners are trained in accordance with the nursing model, physician assistants attend programs that are more in-line with the medical model” (“Nurse Practitioner”). This career is more of an approach of diagnoses and figuring out the problem a patient is experiencing through medical history provided.

Also, a PA is not an independent career, this job is a team approach relationship with physicians or supervision of a physician. Although as a physician assistant there is no limit to what tasks that are allowed to do such as performing surgery, treatment, and prescription of medication to patients. Overall, physician assistants perform a higher level of medical care to individuals of society. Nurse practitioners usually earn about $100,000 per year. Currently in this occupation are growing at a rapid rate of 31 percent. According to Karen Donelan, “The combination of increased demand and provider shortages has led policymakers to consider increasing the supply of nurse practitioners and broadening their roles in the provision of primary care” (“Perspectives of Physicians”). The growing need for NP is like food, there is an abundance but continuously going to be needed. Many states allow nurse practitioners to practice this occupation independently. Although many nurse practitioners to practice in a team effort with the collaboration with others.

Also, an NP chooses on a certain specialty and population to focus on like mental health, and if decided to switch specialty, additional schooling is required. In contrast, a PA earns a salary of about $107,990 per year. This occupation is significantly growing at a 30 percent rate. As mentioned by Bourgeois, “The number of NPs and PAs gradually increased, and they now play a substantial and accepted role in American health care” (“Do Nurse Practitioners”). As the demand for the healthcare services increases, the more physician assistants are acquired. From a teacher and student viewpoint, an NP is like the teacher and a PA is like the student.

Also, physician assistants are not allowed to work independently, PA is required to work with the collaboration of physicians. Although a PA is a not an independent occupation, it is an occupation that has more mobility in terms of specialties without any additional schooling needed. Referring to Dent, once an upcoming nurse practitioner has completed a graduate nursing program the next step is to obtain a license for the NP profession. Obtaining a professional license to become an NP is first choosing a specific specialty such as pediatrics, women’s health, or mental health for instance. Then the next step would be passing a national certification exam in order to receive a nurse practitioner license. Once passing the certification exam, the upcoming NP must submit an application for the certification license to the State Board of Nursing. It may take a couple of weeks to receive a nurse practitioner license. Once the NP has received the certification license it is allowed to be practicing the profession. (“NP vs PA”).

According to NurseJournal, acquiring a license for the occupation of a physician assistant is through the State Board of Medicine. A graduate degree and certification is required in order to apply for a physician assistant license. All beginner PA have the same training, educational background, and graduated from a PA program in order for preparedness for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam. Once a PA student has passed the exam, the next step is submitting an application to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants in order to obtain a professional license in PA. (“Nurse Practitioner”). With a physician assistant license, the PA is allowed to practice the profession. Both nurse practitioners and physician assistants are advanced healthcare occupations. Likewise, both occupations involve the treatment, diagnosing, prescribing, etc. to patients. As stated by Sean Dent, “Both NP programs and PA programs prefer applicants to have patient care experience.” (“NP vs PA”). Although the education and program required, job duty, job outlook, and certification differentiate between the NP and PA professions. Overall both occupations are vital to the healthcare community and focus on the well being of a patient.

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