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What’s the Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner & Physician Assistant?

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What’s the Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner & Physician Assistant?


Updated: June 13, 2017    Published: May 23, 2017

What’s the Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant?

[Image via Pixabay]

While the two roles sometimes fulfill the duties traditionally associated with doctors, it’s important to understand their similarities and differences.

As the primary care physician shortage in the U.S. intensifies, healthcare professionals such as Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Physician Assistants (PAs) are increasingly in demand and are being called upon to assume more responsibility in providing primary care.

According to research conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), “Increased use of NPs and PAs could somewhat alleviate the projected primary care physician shortage if they are effectively integrated into the health care delivery system.” Both nurse practitioners and physician assistants have emerged as an attractive, practical solution for the physician shortage in America.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) also points out that in our current healthcare policy landscape, states are more willing to expand the legal scope of practice for NPs and PAs. After all, utilizing alternative medical providers alleviates some of the pressure on states to control rising medical costs. Considering that PAs and NPs will likely become more and more involved in primary care in the coming years, it’s worthwhile to understand the role played by each of these medical providers in our healthcare system.

So, what’s the difference between a nurse practitioner and a physician’s assistant? Between an M.D. and an D.O.? Learn more about how different healthcare providers figure into the larger picture of patient care.

What’s the Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant?

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