What Is The Difference Between A Physician Assistant And A Nurse Practitioner?

May 1, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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The Differences Between A Physician Assistant & A Nurse Practitioner

Doctor Kigosi teaching patients in Paediatrics Physician Assistants and Nurses have similar job functions with a few crucial differences between the two. Both of these healthcare professionals provide direct care to patients while working under the supervision of doctors and surgeons.

If you want to become a physician assistant, you will require a Master’s degree whereas to become a nurse, you can choose from a wider range of educational options, from an associate degree to a doctorate. A nurse practitioner who has a master’s degree is the most similar to physician assistants.

While both professionals can fulfil similar roles regarding patient care, the training and job function of physician assistants is more rooted in medicine compared to that of nurses. Also, physicians might be more willing to allow physician assistants greater autonomy than they would allow nurses or nurse practitioners.

Nurses Job Function

Nurses fill diverse roles in a variety of health care settings, depending upon their level of education. Both professionals can order diagnostic tests, diagnose and treat a variety of acute and chronic illnesses and injuries, and administer medication and treatment. Nurse Practitioners also spend time educating patients and the general public about health promotion and disease prevention.

Nursing Training

A registered nurse is generally required to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, while nurse practitioners are required to have a master’s degree. A master’s degree in nursing practice is a graduate program that typically takes 18 months to complete. Most programs require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing as well as some experience in a healthcare setting as a registered nurse. The curriculum builds upon the knowledge and skills that the student has gained in the bachelor’s nursing program and in practice as a registered nurse. The nursing curriculum includes both classroom and practical courses, where students work with patients under supervision of experienced faculty.

Courses that are covered in the curriculum include classes in various specialty areas such as acute care nursing, geriatric nursing and family nursing, advanced pathophysiology and advanced pharmacology.

Physician Assistants Job Function

A physician assistant practices medicine and treat patients under the supervision of a surgeon or physician. They are responsible for interviewing patients and reviewing their history, performing physical examinations and ordering diagnostic tests such as X-Rays and blood tests. Physician assistants are also qualified to diagnose illnesses and provide treatment or prescribe medicine. They can work in all areas of medicine, from surgery to family medicine and psychiatry. For example, a surgical physician assistant is also trained to close incisions during the operation and provide care before and after the procedure.

Physician Assistant Training

Several universities offer physician assistant programs for students who have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline, as long as they have completed certain prerequisite courses. The physician assistant graduate program is usually three years long and is a combination of classroom instruction and clinical experience carried out in a variety of settings. Courses cover key areas of medicine such as cardiology, surgery, women’s health, paediatrics, geriatrics, infectious diseases and pharmacology.