Are looking to advance your nursing career path but are wondering which path to take- nurse practitioner or physician assistant?

Physician AssistantWell, in this post we are going to do a comparison of the two job descriptions and the educational requirements for achieving both.  Let’s take a look shall we?

The thing about being a Nurse Practitioner or a Physician Assistant is that at first glance they seem very similar and thus it can be difficult to make choice for your nursing career.  But as we look closer at the two, we see some significant differences that should be considered when making your choice to be either a Nurse Practitioner or a Physician Assistant.

Let’s start talking about how similar these two career paths are.

As a Nurse Practitioner, or a Physician Assistant, you will have the availability to work closely with and care for your patients.  You will prepare medical histories, examine the patients and develop care plans for them.

As a Nurse Practitioner, or a Physician Assistant you will be able to diagnose and treat your patients, however this is where the differences start to show.  A Nurse Practitioner can do this unsupervised, where as a Physician Assistant needs to have a doctor to oversee their efforts.  Now, the level of supervision varies from doctor to doctor and their comfort with the PAs experience, level of education, and skills in their particular specialty.

Both Can Prescribe Medication For Their Patients

Prescribe MedicationHowever, here again the Physician Assistant usually is supervised by a doctor where an NP does not require the supervision.

Also, there are some medicines that a PA can not prescribe such as narcotics and because they are licensed by the state, there may be other medications that the particular states restricts.

Education Can Vary Slightly

To be a Nursing Practitioner you need to be a registered nurse and obtain a Master’s degree.  Some states require a MS in Nursing, but in others it just has to be a Master’s and preferably related to the healthcare field.  You will also need to take care to get additional clinical experience.

A Physician Assistant also need to get an advanced degree, along with a qualified background experience in nursing, paramedic training or equivalent emergency medical services.  The PA will go for a Masters of Science in Physician Assistance and then apply for a PA license.  You must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) in order to achieve your license.

What about Salary?

Again these to career paths are similar.  All of the statistics that I have seen state that the average pay for both a Nurse Practitioner and a Physician Assistant are around $70,000-85,000 a year with an average work week of about 35 hours.  With this kind of pay and hours it makes sense why there are so many nurses that are pursuing advanced education!

So, to sum it up:  the tasks and daily efforts of the Nurse Practitioner and the Physician Assistant are very similar.  The biggest difference I see is the autonomy that the NP gets vs. the PA.  The Nurse Practitioner may have their own clinic or practice (in some states) and the Physician Assistant requires the supervision of a doctor (hence the PA title).

What differences impact in the Nurse Practitioner vs. Physician Assistant choice?


Filed under: Nursing Careers

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