What is the difference between a physician assistant and a nurse practitioner?

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besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has additional training. They also have at least a masters degree. They have specialized training in diagnosing common medical ailments. They work very closely with doctors.

Because the profession is state regulated, care provided by NPs varies. A nurse practitioner's duties include the following:


  • Collaborating with physicians and other health professionals as needed, including providing referrals
  • Counseling and educating patients on health behaviors, self-care skills, and treatment options
  • Diagnosing and treating acute illnesses, infections, and injuries
  • Diagnosing, treating, and monitoring chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure)
  • Obtaining medical histories and conducting physical examinations

A physicians assistant is a medical professional who can practice medicine under the supervision of a medical doctor. Before becoming a PA, an individual must complete a specialized educational program.

PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services, as delegated by a physician. Working as members of a healthcare team, they take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and x rays, and make diagnoses. They also treat minor injuries by suturing, splinting, and casting. PAs record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy.

As you can see, the duties of NP's and PA's are very similar. The main difference between the two is education.

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