Nurse Practitioners vs Physician Assistants


Nurse practitioner vs. Physician assistant: is there really a difference?

Young people with aspirations of being professionals in the medical industry are always torn between which options of medical professionalism to go by. A prospective student may opt to be either a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant. Although few restrictions and differences may be evident, both professionals basically provide health care to patients and an element of formal education will always be present in the two medical disciplines.



A person must compare nurse practitioner vs. physician assistant before finally settling at a decision on which way to direct your career. Actually, a mere look at the two professionals may not hint a difference but people with medical knowledge will certainly enlighten you that they are not the same. Most people may also fail to understand the difference between a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner. Basically, a nurse practitioner must be a registered nurse. However, a nurse practitioner has more academic qualification and more experience as opposed to a registered nurse. In most cases a nurse must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing but after advancing in education and attaining masters qualifications, a licensed nurse becomes a nurse practitioner.   On the other hand, a physician assistant diagnosis and provides medical care to patients under the supervision of a qualified physician. A physician assistant does some of the duties of a physician such as ordering tests and treating patients. He or she may as well prescribe treatment but in most cases, they are required to consult and liaise with a physician for guideline and authorization. Nurse practitioners act independently of doctors and offer general health care services to patients.

Basically nurse practitioners and physician assistant are not the same and differences appear as highlighted below:


Academic qualifications

When comparing a nurse practitioner vs. a physician assistant, the first difference to emerge is on education credentials and qualifications. Although they perform similar jobs at times, this should not mislead you that they have similar academic qualification. A physician assistant must be a graduate from a recognized medical college and pass an accredited medical program as either a surgical assistant or a physician assistant. Then he must pass special national examinations set and approved by the body that certifies the surgeon assistants in the specific state. Being qualified as a nurse practitioner demands more than just having a graduate degree. It is an advanced practice that requires one to be a holder of a master’s degree after being a registered nurse and acquiring a license as a nurse. Also certification by a national body may be necessary but this varies depending on the rules governing the state in question. PAS do not need to have a master’s degree must NPS must attain masters level training.


Salary comparison

When ascertaining the differences between a nurse practitioner vs. a physician assistant, the issue of salary and allowances may not escape you. In most cases, the level of salary payable in any profession is a function of academic qualifications. Being more educated than a physician assistant, a nurse practitioner earns relatively more. However, the salary scale varies from one state to another and is also determined by the level of experience in medicine. In most cases, salary is commonly determined with their year of experience they have.


Flexibility of working hours

As explained above, physician assistants work under the supervision of qualified physicians. This implies that their working time is tied to the doctor’s time as they cannot be left solely in charge of patients as their level of education and experience limits this. Their flexibility is limited as they must work under doctor’s instructions. Nurse practitioners on the other hand work independently and follow their own working schedule. Thus, they are more flexible as they are their own bosses.

Also when it comes to the roles of nurse practitioners vs. physician assistant, PAs are medical professionals who actually treat unlike nurse practitioners who provide mere health care services plus the treatments. Thus, it’s possible to find PAs in cases of medical emergencies alongside doctors offering treatment especially during car accidents. On the other hand nurse practitioners offer professional medical care for common medical ailments and problems. In cases of medical emergencies, they will be found offering medical care to the victims rather than treatment and diagnosis.

During licensing, assistants to the doctors are licensed at state level unlike licensing of nurse practitioners. Thus, rules governing physician assistants are different among states unlike nurse practitioners who can seek employment in any state as their qualifications tend to be universal. In most cases, doctors delegate work to physician assistants. This makes them liable for the actions of their medical aides. Nurse practitioners work independently and are held personally responsible for their actions.


Which of the two should you choose?

Just like in other careers, when making decisions between nurse practitioner vs. physician assistant, it all depends with your individual goals and aspirations. You must decide what you want to accomplish in the medical industry before venturing into any of the two. Generally, the two implies increased responsibilities and more ability to offer hospital services than a registered nurse. Being an ordinary nurse, you can opt to follow either paths but calls for advancing your education levels to achieve this. If you are seeking for a career that rewards better, advancing to physician assistant level may suit you. Nurse practitioners have their own practice such as in autonomy. What’s common in these two careers is that they offer you a platform to care for patients in a more personalized way. They are both focused on improving the lives of patients and helping them achieve medical fitness. Actually, they both provide you with a base line for climbing your medical ladder and both jobs have its mentors and pros who can guide you in choosing the right path. As a parting short, it’s always good to remember that being a medical professional is more of a calling than a good paying career. Thus comparing nurse practitioner vs. physician assistant may not really help you in becoming any of them. It all starts with devotion and desire to transform lives as it may be more demanding than you think.