If you’re interested in a career in healthcare, and want to provide care directly to patients, you may be considering the difference in a physician assistant vs nurse practitioner.
Both of these are great careers, work directly under the supervision of a physician or independently, and are great options for people who want to help others.
Differences In Physician Assistant vs Nurse Practitioner
However, there are several differences, not the first being that the physician assistant has a higher pay scale than a nurse practitioner and the two positions have different educational requirements. Let’s take a look at the differences so you can make a more informed decision between physician assistant vs nurse practitioner.
A physician assistant (PA) is licensed as a healthcare provider, either under a physician or independently, and performs healthcare services typically performed by a physician. A nurse practitioner may be able to perform independently, depending on the state; not all states allow this. Depending on your state, this is one factor that may determine whether you want to become a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.
To become a nurse practitioner, an RN with a bachelor of science in nursing will have passed the NCLEX-RN exam, and earned a master’s degree in nursing. The education for physician’s assistant involves a bachelor’s degree and a two-year (usually) PA program. The potential PA then must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, which is only available to graduates of certified PA training programs. While the time involved in training is similar for physician assistant vs nurse practitioner training, as you can see, the actual training requirements are quite different.
Nurse practitioners can be either specialists or generalists. Specialist nurse practitioners will need to take different exams to specialize in different areas. Physician assistants are usually generalists, but may specialize, particularly by completing a residency.
Physician assistants report to a physician, but may be the primary care provider, particularly in underserved areas. Depending on the rules in the particular state and facility, the PA may only have to have the MD sign their charts weekly, or may need closer supervision. PAs are allowed to have their own clinics in most states, but in some states may not prescribe controlled medications.
There Are Many Similarities Between Physician Assistant vs Nurse Practitioner
As you can see, there are many similarities between physician assistant vs nurse practitioner, but there are also quite a few differences. When you select a career, you will primarily be guided by what you’re already doing and what your interests are, but the information here should clear up any confusion for you concerning physician assistant vs nurse practitioner.
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