A nurse practitioner and physician assistant offer similar services and have comparable duties in a clinic setting, but each profession is slightly different. You will often see both working alongside physicians, diagnosing and treating patients in their own capacity. Here is what you need to know about what these two professions can and cannot do, looking at the similarities and the differences.

Education, Training and Certification

Nurse practitioners must have at least a master’s degree in nursing, with most specializing in a field or population group, such as pediatrics or women’s health. They can be certified in at least one specialty, with some receiving multiple certifications. To be licensed as a nurse practitioner, they must complete their master’s degree, be a licensed RN and have their certification.

Physician assistants must obtain a master’s degree in physician assistant studies. To obtain a state license as a PA, a graduate degree and certification is required, but no previous license.

Similar Duties

Both a nurse practitioner and a physician assistant can perform many of the same duties for patients. They can both assist physicians during surgery. They can both prescribe many medications; but in Texas, controlled substances can only be prescribed by a physician. Both can perform exams, diagnose, order tests, offer treatment, deliver babies and counsel patients. In practical duties, there is little to no difference in what a nurse practitioner versus a physician assistant can perform.

Philosophy Differences: Nurse Practitionervs Physician Assistant

Although both a nurse practitioner and physician assistant must receive similar degrees, certifications and licensing, and can perform similar duties, the fundamental difference between the two is philosophy. This is known as the nursing versus the medical model. The basic differences between these two are as follows:

  • Nursing model. Nursing is a patient-centric field, focusing on holistic care of the emotional, mental and physical well-being of patients. This is apparent in the nurse practitioner certification process, focusing on the specific needs of a patient population group, not anatomy or disease.
  • Medical model. For physician assistants, the focus of education and training is disease and anatomy when it comes to treating patients.

While both professions have value and are needed in today’s overwhelmed healthcare system, you will see these professionals in different settings. A nurse practitioner is more likely to work in a specialized healthcare clinic, where a physician assistant may work in an urgent care or general practice clinic.

Specialized Pediatric Care in Houston

At Pediatric Healthcare of North Houston, we have experienced nurse practitioners that work alongside our pediatricians to offer excellent care for our young patients. You can trust our team to provide the best medical care for your child, whether you are seen by a nurse practitioner or one of our pediatricians. Contact our clinic to learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment.

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