Physician Assistants (PA) and Nurse Practitioners (NP) are health professionals licensed by the state or credentialed by a federal employer to practice medicine as delegated by and with the supervision of a physician. They provide a broad range of medical and surgical services that traditionally have been performed by physicians. PAs and NPs work as members of a team, with their supervising physicians as the leader of the team. As members of the medical team they can diagnose and treat illnesses. They meet the needs of patients in a variety of clinical and hospital settings. They both have long been recognized as quality health care providers.
As part of their responsibilities, they perform physical exams, diagnose illnesses, develop and carry out treatment plans, order and interpret lab tests, suture lacerations, apply casts, assist in surgery, provide patient education and preventative health care counseling, and prescribe medications.
In general, PAs, NPs, and their supervising physicians will see patients with the same kinds of illnesses. PAs and NPs are taught to know when it is appropriate to have the patient seen by the physician. It is an important part of their training.
Schooling for PAs includes a Bachelor’s Degree and then a Master’s Degree in PA studies. NP’s schooling is very similar with a Bachelor’s Degree and then a Master’s Degree in nursing. Education does not stop after graduation though. To keep up with medical advances they are committed to life-long learning. They take continuing education classes throughout their career and have a national recertification exam every six years.
You may notice a “C” in their titles (PA-C and CRNP), which stands for certified. It means that the person who holds the title has passed his or her certification exam. To maintain the certified title they must do many hours of continuing education and pass their certification exams periodically.
Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners are both very important team players in our practices. They both work to provide the best care possible to all of our patients.
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