Nurse Practitioner Vs. Physician Assistant

by | Nov 23, 2021 | Nurse Life | 0 comments

In today’s healthcare industry, there is a great demand for qualified nurses and physician assistants. These two professionals work in the medical field to aid doctors in treating patients. They are highly trained experts who assist doctors in managing patients’ health and administering medication as ordered by their doctors. The career of these two professionals have many similarities but also have significant differences. Let’s look at a Nurse Practitioner Vs Physician Assistant.

Nurse Practitioner Vs. Physician Assistant

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner is a registered professional nurse who has advanced education in nursing and has acquired advanced clinical experience. The advanced practice nurses are qualified to the proper advanced practice level with their specific training, education, and practical knowledge. These professionals are licensed by the state boards that they qualify for as they meet all requirements before holding out practicing.

Some of the responsibilities of a nurse practitioner include:

  • Examine patients physically
  • Obtain medical histories
  • Provide vaccinations
  • Medication prescriptions and administration
  • Injuries and illnesses can be diagnosed and treated
  • Assist patients in understanding and making sense of their health conditions
  • Procedures to be performed or assisted
  • Teaching healthy lifestyle habits to patients and their families
  • Diagnostic tests, such as blood work, MRIs, EEGs, ultrasounds, and x-rays, may be ordered and interpreted
  • Make clinical research a priority

What is a Physician Assistant?

A physician assistant is an advanced clinical professional who collaborates with doctors to provide medical care to people of all ages. They are qualified advanced-level nurses and doctor assistants who work under the supervision of a licensed health care provider, such as a doctor. They are usually trained for two years beyond their bachelor’s degree. A physician assistant also practices medicine independently when permitted by the state board to apply for licensure.

Responsibilities of a Physician Assistant

The responsibilities of both NPs and PAs are the same as we have shared above.

Nps vs PAs

Nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) both work in the medical field. They have similar job duties, which include the following:

  • Diagnosing illness
  • Chronic disease management
  • Implementing treatment plans
  • Reviewing and interpreting diagnostic data
  • Monitoring progress during treatment
  • Educating patients about health concerns such as diet or smoking cessation
  • Writing prescriptions upon request from their physicians
  • Maintaining records and communicating with physicians, other health care professionals, and patients. 

It is important to note that PAs are more likely than NPs to participate in direct patient care, although both work under the supervision of their physicians.

Education and Certification NP Programs

Nurse practitioners (NPs) must have an additional two or four years of post-graduate education beyond earning a bachelor’s degree, which includes certified nursing degrees and master’s degrees. 

In addition, they are required to pass the national certification exam after practicing for three years for full advance practice permission in most states and regions.

Education and Certification PA Programs

On the other hand, physician assistants also need at least a master’s degree, but some universities offer programs for only one year of study. These specific programs require candidates to have prior experience in the field. 

Such as working as a teacher/assistant in a nursing school or having work experience as a nurse other than a school teacher such as working at hospitals, private offices, etc.

No national certification exam is required for physician assistants, but most states require their graduates to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) after earning their master’s degree.

As of 2018, both NPs and PAs can prescribe medications under partial or complete supervision by physicians except in California, where there is an exception that allows NPS unsupervised access to prescribing medicines due to low physician workforce availability.

Although both medical professionals perform similar roles, there are differences in how they complete their work duties.

Key Difference Between Nurse Practitioner Vs Physician Assistant

Nurse practitioners have a better bedside manner than physician assistants, which makes them comfortable with patients because they can easily relate to each other due to similarities in educational background. 

They can also diagnose and treat medical conditions such as depression, cancer, or diabetes by providing medical services beyond those of medical assistants because they have more medical knowledge than medical assistants.

For example, NPs can prescribe medications that PAs cannot, but medical assistants handle patients with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. 

In addition, NPs are trained in pharmacotherapy which is the most common intervention practiced when treating patients; they may leave written orders for medications for medical assistants to dispense upon arrival of their shifts.

On the other hand, Physician Assistants require supervision from a licensed physician to allow them to practice within each state and region. However, some training programs provide opportunities for PAs without care due to medical shortages in many forms. 

Their medical duties are limited to primarily diagnosing and treating medical conditions, including blood pressure detection, medical imaging, diagnostic tests such as urine analysis, and wound care.

Pas’s main objective is to help medical doctors by providing the medical support they cannot offer themselves individually because they have too many patients to take care of alone. 

Although PAs practice medicine independently under the supervision of a physician, Most of their time is spent on tasks such as 

  • Holding office hours
  • Reviewing medical records
  • Evaluating test results
  • Ordering medical interpretation or diagnoses for workers who are not Qualified, physicians

This makes patient’s treatment plans much easier for the supervising physicians other than prescribing medications that require either one or two levels of medical authority supervisory such as medical licensure/certification, medical education, or medical training.

In conclusion, while both medical professionals perform many similarities in medical practices, they still have their differences when it comes to the working environment and how they treat patients; also depending on whether or not physicians are available at all times for medical supervision.

While both NPs and PAs hold a scope of practice concerning patient consultations, medical diagnosis, and prescription, there is no doubt that an NP has a better bedside manner compared to PAs due to being more comfortable with patients due to further knowledge of nursing procedures than physician assistants.

Duties of Nurse Practitioner Vs Physician Assistant

PA’s medical duties are limited to those within medical consultation, medical diagnosis, and prescription, which are also some of the medical practices nurse practitioners do. Still, they require medical supervision from licensed medical physicians.

On the other hand, NPs have much more medical experience than PAs because they spend their time in clinics not as medical assistants but as medical professionals who can play several roles during health consultations, including pharmacotherapy, with no need for medical supervision PAs, it is required.

In addition, medical assistants handle medical charts and medical records, which are not part of medical duties for nurse practitioners. For example, a medical assistant would have to concentrate on medical charts after a patient’s examination. At the same time, an NP would spend time with the patient by reviewing results, discussing medical case history with them, and writing medication orders if required.

How to Decide Which Career Is Right for You?

Before you enter medical school, you need to decide what career you want to pursue. For this, you can talk to your senior medical students and medical professionals working in medical clinics to know what job you will follow. While deciding on medical education, you must spend some time reading articles online which will help you decide which medical field to choose for your medical career.

Deciding on this time will be much easier than making one after you complete your medical school. After medical school, every graduate student goes through residency training which gets very difficult during the first year or two of the program. Once you have successfully gotten into medical school and completed your medical degree, there are certain factors involved before entering into residency programs.

Is a PA or an NP higher ranked?

Both professions rank equally high. Practitioners in both professions can specialize in a variety of fields in healthcare. In general, NPS specialize in a specific population, while PAs have a broad background.

What are the different kinds of advanced practice registered nurses?

There are three advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) designations: a certified nurse practitioner (CNP), a clinical nurse specialist (CNS), and a licensed registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA).

How long does it take to complete nursing school?

It depends on where you go, but on average, it’s about two years. The curriculum usually consists of general education courses for your first year. Then you begin taking advanced health care courses generally during your second year. 

Finally, you’ll spend the final six months or so in clinical rotations at hospitals. Upon graduating from your program, you’ll also have to pass specific certification exams based on what specialty field you plan to work in.

How long does it take to become a physician assistant?

It takes about 22 months to work as a PA after taking the Physician Assistant (PA) exam. This includes both advanced practice and clinical training time.


From the above discussion, it is evident that advanced practice registered nurses can independently carry out a comprehensive range of diagnostic and therapeutic tasks, and they are equally ranked with physician assistants in terms of advanced healthcare practices.

More Resources for Nurse Practitioner Vs Physician Assistant:

Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.