Nurse practitioner and physician assistant
educational programs began in 1965 to help keep up with the demand for specialized healthcare professionals. Fast-forward 50 years and these professionals are an integral part of the industry, bringing a comprehensive perspective to healthcare. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act and a shortage of full-time physicians, NPs and PAs are vital to health management and care. At first glance, these roles may seem similar, but there are a few differences. These variances are important to understand when staffing your facility’s needs.
Differences in Training
One major difference between NPs and PAs is in the education they receive. PAs follow the same disease-centered medical model as physicians. PAs earn a master’s degree, do 8 to 11 clinical rotations in specialties, and qualify by taking the PANCE, a national certification exam
. PAs can practice autonomously in collaboration with a physician and must recertify every 10 years. NPs follow the more patient-centered nursing model. They must first be registered nurses and then complete a master’s or doctoral program and receive advanced clinical training. NPs are not required to recertify if they meet continuing education and clinical hour requirements.
Although the educational requirements for these roles differ, both professions are licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They provide quality care in many types of settings including hospitals, clinics, private practices and nursing homes.
How Many Practice in the U.S.?
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners
(AANP) there are more than 220,000 NPs licensed to practice in the U.S. Jobs for NPs are projected to grow 31 percent by 2022. There are more than 100,000 PAs practicing in the U.S. with expected job growth of 30 percent by 2024, reports the American Academy of PAs
(AAPA). As need for healthcare services increases, these professionals will be in much higher demand to provide care to patients.
What They Are Able to Do?
NPs and PAs are both licensed to diagnose and treat illnesses. They are also able to counsel patients and manage their overall care.
The professional services PAs and NPs provide include:
- Performing patient histories and physical examinations as well as ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests
- Making medical decisions including developing and implementing treatment plans
- Prescribing medication to varying degrees
- Coordinating care
- Performing and assisting certain procedures and surgeries
What Determines Their Scope of Practice?
For both professions, scope of practice is determined by the individual’s education, training, and experience, state and federal laws and regulations, and policies at the practice level.
Both NPs and PAs make autonomous decisions in their day-to-day practice. In certain settings, even in states where NP laws allow for independent practice, there are still requirements for physician involvement in some settings or situations.
NP “independent” practice varies by state with collaboration requirements for new graduates
. For example, California, Texas and Florida are among the 28 states that require NPs to collaborate with a physician. PAs collaborate with physicians in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Does Your Facility Need a NP or a PA?
As access to healthcare becomes available to more Americans, it will increase the need for additional staff. NPs and PAs are an excellent option for your facility
to control costs, improve the quality of patient care, enhance patient and
physician satisfaction and maximize the value of your provider team.