Physician Assistants and Nurse Practioners are Healthcare Providers licensed by the State. They are correctly referred to as Advanced Practice Clinicians or AP Clinicians. In the past they were referred to as Midlevels. Their training is more extensive than an RN and less than an MD.
About Physician Assistants:
A Physician Assistant (PA) is a health professional licensed by the State to practice medicine as delegated by and with the supervision of a physician. PAs provide a broad range of medical and surgical services that traditionally have been performed by physicians. A hallmark of PA practice is that PAs work as a member of a team, with their supervising physicians as the leaders of the team. As members of the medical team, PAs diagnose and treat illness. They can meet the needs of patients in a variety of clinical and hospital settings. PAs have long been recognized as quality health care providers. As part of their responsiblities, PAs perform physical exams, diagnose illnesses, develop and carry out treatment plans, order and interpret lab tests, provide patient education and preventive health care couseling, and in virtually all states prescribe medications. To allow the physician-PA team to be more efficient in providing care to patients, the vast majority of states do not require PAs and their supervising physicians to be at the same location. All states require the supervising physician to be available, either in person or by telecommunications, when the PA is seeing patients. The scope of the PA's work corresponds to the supervising physician's practice. In general, a physician assistant and the supervising physician will see patients with the same kinds of illnesses. The cases handled by physicians are generally the more complicated medical cases or those that require care that is not a routine part of the PA's scope of work. Supervising physicians determine which patients and what kinds of illnesses they want PAs to treat. Close consultation between the patient, PA, and physician is done for unusual or hard to manage illnesses. Physician assistants are taught to know when it is appropriate to have the patient seen by the physician. It is an important part of PA training. Physician assistants are trained in medicine, just like physicians, and in some programs PAs attend many of the same classes as medical students. Both professions are educated to detect diseases and treat them, and to assist patients in living a healthier lifestyle. A major difference between PA education and physician education is the amount of time spent in their formal education. In addition, physicians are required to do an internship after graduation from medical school, and the majority of physicians complete a residency in a specialty following their internship. PAs are not required to undertake an internship or residency. The PA degree is a master’s level degree. The "C" in PA-C means physician assistant certified. It means that the person who holds the title has passed the certification exam developed jointly by the National Board of Medical Examiners and the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). The NCCPA is an independent organization, and its commissioners represent different national medical organizations and the PA profession. Only graduates from accredited PA educational programs are allowed to take the initial exam. To maintain that "C" after "PA," a physician assistant must log 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and take the national recertification exam every six years. The certification and recertification exams help ensure there is a core medical and surgical knowledge that each PA-C should attain and maintain. For more information on PAs contact the American Academy of Physician Assistants, 950 North Washington Stree, Alexandria, Virginia 22314-1552. www.aapa.org .
About Nurse Practitioners:
Nurse Practitioners (APRNs) are Registered Nurses who are prepared, through advanced education and clinical training, to provide a wide range of preventive and acute health care services to individuals of all ages. APRNs complete graduate-level education preparation that leads to a master’s degree. APRN means Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. APRNs take health histories and provide complete physical examinations; diagnose and treat many common acute and chronic problems; interpret laboratory results and X-rays; prescribe and manage medications and other therapies; provide health teaching and supportive counseling with an emphasis on prevention of illness and health maintenance; and refer patients to other health professionals as needed.
APRNs are authorized to practice across the nation and have prescriptive privileges, of varying degrees, in 49 states. Nurse practitioners perform services as authorized by a state's nurse practice act. These nurse practice acts vary state-to-state, with some states having independent practice for APRNs (not requiring any physician involvement), some with collaborative agreement required with a physician.
How are NPs Different from Physician Assistants (PAs)?
While APRNs and PAs often perform similar functions, there are important distinctions between these health care professionals. APRNs may work independently or in collaboration with a physician and must have an RN license before being accepted into an APRN educational program. Almost all APRNs are educationally prepared at the master's level. APRNs are authorized to practice as advanced practice nurses by individual state regulating boards. APRNs assess patients, make diagnoses, and determine treatment plans. Aspects of the role may include autonomous practice, collaboration with physicians, and prescriptive authority. Physician Assistants (PAs) are licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a physician. PAs are trained in intensive accredited education programs that use the medical model. Upon graduation, physician assistants take a national certification examination; graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and passage of the national certifying exam are required for state licensure. For more information about nurse practitioners, contact the American College of Nurse Practioners, 1501 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 509, Arlington, VA 22209. www.acnpweb.org.