difference between nurse practitioner and physician assistant

difference between nurse practitioner and physician assistantA lot of people don’t know the difference between nurse practitioner and physician assistant. You may be asking what physician’s assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) perform, what the differences between the roles are, and what prospects both careers offer within the healthcare business if you are pursuing a career in medicine.

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are advanced healthcare professionals who perform comparable tasks such as diagnosing ailments and giving drugs. However, their education and certification paths differ significantly. This blog post delves into the fundamental differences between NPs and PAs to help you figure out which path is right for you.

Nurse Practitioner VS Physician Assistant: Job Description

It’s helpful to look at how nurse practitioners and physician assistants practice medicine when comparing the two. Both NPs and PAs can offer similar services, but with distinct emphasis.

Nurse Practitioner

The primary objective of an NP’s job is to monitor patient health and provide direct treatment, which often includes the following daily tasks:

  • To offer accurate medical records and suitable diagnosis, record and track patient medical histories, such as current symptoms and medication history.
  • Patient data, information, and biological samples are collected.
  • Observing patients and performing routine checks in detail ordering diagnostic tests and procedures.
  • Analyzing test results and developing treatment programs for patients
  • Prescriptions and treatment are prescribed, and the results are monitored.
  • Performing medical operations in accordance with their areas of expertise
  • RNs, LPNs, CNAs, and other nursing team members, as well as other staff members, must be managed.

And more.

The workload of nurse practitioners varies depending on the field they work in (e.g., pediatrics, emergency services, psychiatric-mental health, women’s health, etc.), but providing quality patient care and medical knowledge is always a top focus.

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants, like nurse practitioners, are essential members of the healthcare team. They diagnose ailments, plan and manage therapy, write prescriptions, and offer healthcare. Physician assistants are required by law to work under the direct supervision of a physician or surgeon, and their daily tasks often include:

  • Keeping track of patient medical histories
  • Conducting physical examinations
  • Patient education on illness prevention and preventative healthcare
  • Order and analyze diagnostic and laboratory tests.
  • Identifying diseases and injuries
  • Keeping track of pertinent patient data and analyzing treatment plan outcomes
  • Medication prescriptions
  • Aiding in operations and doing procedures
  • Visiting patients in hospitals
  • Clinical research and collaboration with medical personnel

Hospitals, medical offices, nursing homes, clinics, educational institutions, community health centers, and government agencies all employ PAs. Family practice, dermatology, critical care, anesthesia, radiography, surgery (e.g., trauma, transplant, vascular), and many other specializations are also available to PAs.

Nurse Practitioner VS Physician Assistant: Qualification

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants must both have a master’s degree, finish a rigorous clinical training program, and obtain certificates. The distinctions come down to the types of training and certification criteria.

Nurse Practitioner

You must finish the following to become a nurse practitioner:

  • Obtain your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree: It takes four years to complete a full-time BSN program.
  • NCLEX-RN Exam Success: To practice as a registered nurse (RN) in your state, you must pass this exam. You will earn your RN license once you pass the exam.
  • Obtain a master’s degree: A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in a nurse practitioner role speciality, such as Family Nurse Practitioner, will be required (FNP). NP programs typically involve a clinical practicum of at least 500 hours under the supervision of a preceptor in addition to coursework.
  • Become a Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP): To become a nurse practitioner, you must pass a national certification exam administered by one of five national certification boards.
  • Recertifying Option: Nurse practitioners must complete 100 hours of continuing education and 1,000 clinical hours every five years to maintain their accreditation.

Physician Assistant

To work as a physician assistant, you must first satisfy the following requirements:

  • You must get a master’s degree from a recognized PA program. It is usually a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies. Before graduating, you must also complete at least 2,000 hours of supervised clinical practice in medical and surgical settings.
  • Pass the National Certifying Examination for Physician Assistants (PANCE): This allows you can get your state licensure. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) is incharge of PANCE.
  • Keep your national certification current: Every two years, PAs must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME). Every 6 to 10 years, they must take a recertification exam.

Nurse Practitioner VS Physician Assistant: Work Environment

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants operate in a variety of healthcare settings, including medical offices, hospitals, nursing homes, VA facilities, correctional institutions, and community clinics, providing primary, acute, and specialized care.

It is important t supervise PAs while they are operating as primary care practitioners. In 11 states, NPs must work under the supervision of a physician. Nurse practitioners, on the other hand, have complete authority in 24 states and U.S. territories. (Regulations in the remaining 16 states and US territories are somewhere in the middle.)

Nurse Practitioner VS Physician Assistant: Job Outlook & Salary

In the next decade, nurse practitioner and physician assistant jobs would expand at quicker rates than the average.

Between 2019 and 2029, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 45 percent increase in NP jobs and a 31 percent increase in PA jobs. In addition, according to the publication’s 2021 Best Healthcare Jobs list, physician assistants are ranked first and nurse practitioners are ranked second.

A nurse practitioner’s median pay is $117,670 in 2021, while a physician assistant’s median salary is $115,390. As a result, the compensation of a nurse practitioner is slightly higher than that of a physician assistant.


Regardless of which path you pursue, both are gratifying options because they will allow you make a difference in the lives of patients. Surely, you will be responsible for saving lives.

See: Nurse practicioner jobs

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