physician assistant vs nurse practitioner

Physician Assistant vs Nurse Practitioner | PA vs NP


Physician Assistant –  a professional who practices medicine in collaboration or under indirect supervision of a physician, i.e. depending on state laws. Physicians is not necessarily on-site with physician assistants. Collaboration or supervision often occurs via electronic means and when consults are necessary. physician assistant vs nurse practitioner

Nurse Practitioner –  an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), along with the nurse anesthetist (CRNA) and nurse midwife (CNM). A nurse practitioner is classified as a mid-level practitioner, trained to assess patient needs, order and interpret diagnostic and laboratory tests, diagnose illness and disease, prescribe medication and formulate treatment plans. NP training covers basic disease prevention, coordination of care, and health promotion, but does not provide the depth of expertise needed to recognize more complex cases in which multiple symptoms suggest more serious conditions. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, a nurse practitioner is educated at the masters or doctoral level to provide “primary, acute, chronic, and specialty care to patients of all ages and all walks of life”. The scope of practice for a nurse practitioner is defined by jurisdiction. Depending on jurisdiction, nurse practitioners may or may not be required to practice under the supervision of a physician. In United States, nurse practitioners have been lobbying for independent practice.


Physician assistants (PAs) practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers. They examine, diagnose, and treat patients. Their typical duties are:

  1. Take or review patients’ medical histories
  2. Examine patients (conduct physical examination)
  3. Order and interpret diagnostic tests, such as x rays or blood tests
  4. Diagnose a patient’s injury or illness
  5. Give treatment, such as setting broken bones and immunizing patients
  6. Educate and counsel patients and their families—for example, answering questions about how to care for a child with asthma
  7. Prescribe medicine
  8. First assist in surgery
  9. Advise on preventive healthcare
  10. Conduct clinical research
  11. Perform procedures
  12. Coordinate care
  13. Develop treatment plans
  14. Assess and record a patient’s progress
  15. Research the latest treatments to ensure the quality of patient care
  16. Conduct or participate in outreach programs, talking to groups about managing diseases and promoting wellness

Nurse practitioners (NPs) serve as primary and specialty care providers, delivering advanced nursing services to patients and their families. They assess patients, determine the best way to improve or manage a patient’s health, and discuss ways to integrate health promotion strategies into a patient’s life. Nurse practitioners typically care for a certain population of people. For instance, NPs may work in adult and geriatric health, pediatric health, or psychiatric and mental health.

Although the scope of their duties varies some by state, many nurse practitioners work independently, prescribe medications, and order laboratory tests. All nurse practitioners consult with physicians and other health professionals when needed. physician assistant vs nurse practitioner

As an advanced practice registered nurse, the nurse practitioner’s duties typically include the following:

  1. Take and record patients’ medical histories and symptoms
  2. Perform physical exams and observe patients
  3. Create patient care plans or contribute to existing plans
  4. Perform and order diagnostic tests
  5. Operate and monitor medical equipment
  6. Diagnose various health problems
  7. Analyze test results or changes in a patient’s condition, and alter treatment plans, as needed
  8. Give patients medicines and treatments
  9. Evaluate a patient’s response to medicines and treatments
  10. Consult with doctors and other healthcare professionals, as needed
  11. Counsel and teach patients and their families how to stay healthy or manage their illnesses or injuries
  12. Conduct research

Work Environment/Schedules

Working with patients can be both physically and emotionally demanding. Physician assistants spend much of their time on their feet, making rounds and evaluating patients. Physician assistants who work in operating rooms often stand for extended periods. Most physician assistants work full time. About 1 out of 4 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2016. Physician assistants may work nights, weekends, or holidays. They may also be on call, meaning that they must be ready to respond to a work request with little notice. physician assistant vs nurse practitioner

Some advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) may treat patients in their patients’ homes. Some nurse midwives work in birthing centers, which are a type of outpatient care center. APRNs may travel long distances to help care for patients in places where there are not enough healthcare workers. APRN work can be both physically and emotionally demanding. Some APRNs spend much of their day on their feet. They are vulnerable to back injuries because they must lift and move patients. APRN work can also be stressful because they make critical decisions that affect a patient’s health. Because of the environments in which they work, APRNs may come in close contact with infectious diseases. Therefore, they must follow strict, standardized guidelines to guard against diseases and other dangers, such as accidental needle sticks or patient outbursts. Most APRNs work full time. APRNs working in physicians’ offices typically work during normal business hours. Those working in hospitals and various other healthcare facilities may work in shifts to provide round-the-clock patient care. They may work nights, weekends, and holidays. Some APRNs, especially those who work in critical care or those who deliver babies, also may be required to be on call.

Here’s EmpoweRN’s founder, Caroline, to discuss the key differences between a Physician Assistant and a Nurse Practitioner.




Physician Assistants : Occupational Outlook Handbook:. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2019, from

Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners : Occupational Outlook Handbook:. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2019, from





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