What is the Difference Between a Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner?

Difference Between PA & NPPhysician assistants (PA) and nurse practitioners (NP) are both extensively trained medical professionals who hold advanced degrees and provide care directly to patients. Still, there are a few key differences between these health care providers.

Education and certifications

Whether you consult with a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner, you’ll be speaking with a qualified professional. However, each has taken a different educational path and holds varying certifications.

  • A physician assistant has completed graduate-level medical education, often alongside aspiring physicians, and has received separate accreditation and certification from an accredited physician assistant program. He or she is nationally certified and licensed with the state.
  • A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse (RN) with additional graduate education and clinical training. He or she is nationally certified in one of several specialties, such as acute care, pediatrics, or women’s health.

The physician model vs. the nursing model

Did you know that physician assistants and nurse practitioners take different approaches to patient care? This is sometimes called a treatment philosophy, or a “model.”

  • A physician assistant follows the physician model, which is disease-centered and focuses on the biological facets of medical evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. He or she often collaborates with physicians.
  • A nurse practitioner follows the nursing model, focusing on the patient’s overall health and wellness and providing basic treatment as necessary.

Scope of medical treatment

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners are able to provide many important health care services.

  • A physician assistant can diagnose and treat a wide array of medical concerns, prescribe medicine, and may even perform surgery.
  • A nurse practitioner can help diagnose and treat patients with routine and complex medical conditions, sometimes working alongside physicians to do so. He or she may also prescribe medications.

Tufts Medical Center Community Care offers comprehensive, community-based medical treatment from more than 80 nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physicians who are committed to the health and happiness of patients. If you want prompt and easily accessible care from compassionate professionals, we encourage you to contact a member of our team or request an appointment online.

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