Top 9 Scopes of Practice for Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners

Some duties of physician assistants and nurse practitioners are similar. But, there are some key differences. Understanding these differences better can lead to improved care for all patients. It can also help people collaborate better.

Both physician assistants and nurse practitioners play a crucial role. They usually provide more and more care during tough times. Better healthcare coverage and access have raised the demand for healthcare. This has dramatically increased pressure on a limited number of healthcare professionals to provide care.

Physician assistants and Nurse practitioners have different degrees

Physician assistants are not licensed RNs with a nursing degree. A physician assistant has a different course of study. They usually work directly for a licensed medical doctor. However, a few may operate independently at clinics or in a school or university setting. The standard degree for a physician assistant is a Master of Science (Physician Assistant Studies).

Physician assistants study the clinical side of medicine. Their studies reflect the particular skills they need to be the primary assistant of an MD. They do not specialize while studying. But, they may choose to get extra training or work in a specific area of medicine after graduation.

Physician assistants usually work in primary care. Nurse practitioners, in contrast, often specialize in any branch of medicine.

Nurse practitioners often get a Bachelor’s or Master of Science in Nursing and an RN license. Then, they advance to nurse practitioner. To become a nurse practitioner, a nurse with an RN license and a bachelor’s degree would get a master’s degree in nurse practitioner. If they already have a master’s degree, they would complete a post-master’s program to become a nurse practitioner.

Exam and licensing requirements for both Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners vary slightly by state. Clinical rotations and exams ensure that graduates are competent to practice in their state of choice.

What nurse practitioners or physician assistants are allowed to do varies by state. So, consider this if you plan to practice in a different state than where you currently live.

Physician assistant roles and Duties

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Medical history and diagnostic questions

Physician assistants gather complete medical histories and intake information from patients. This allows medical doctors to use their time better. And, it does not reduce the quality of care a patient gets.

Physical exams

The physician assistants may also conduct patients’ physical exams. They are for yearly physicals and university entrance. They are also used to diagnose patients who have a health complaint. Preliminary physical exams and annual preventative checkups help doctors spot problems early. They also allow for more accurate diagnosis when a patient is in pain or sick.

Ordering tests and imaging

Needed tests and imaging are essential. They give an accurate picture of a patient’s health. They also help diagnose specific problems. Some clinics can do basic tests and imaging. But, they refer most tests and imaging to specialists. They work in an ultrasound or imaging clinic. They also work in a cardiac care center or a contracted laboratory.

Sometimes, the physician assistants may collect samples and then send them to a lab for analysis and results. Medical doctors or the assistant then interpret the results. They present them to the patient. In complex diagnoses and severe illness cases, an MD or DO is usually involved at all these stages. They spend a lot of time with the patient.

Treatment and counseling

A physician’s assistant may administer some treatments after the supervising physician approves them. Physician assistants answer questions and counsel the patient on best practices and care. This happens when they are at home, work, or school. For example, a physician assistant might list good physical activities. They might also recommend avoiding bad ones. This might happen if a patient comes in to treat a sprained ankle or minor fracture.

Physician assistants may also need to counsel patients on the resources available to them. These resources can help with further treatment or with daily tasks.

Nurse practitioner duties

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A nurse practitioner does many of the same things a regular doctor does. In fact, more and more patients are spending less time with their MDs and more time with a nurse practitioner than in the past. Getting an appointment with a nurse practitioner at many clinics is easier. This reduces healthcare costs.

Nurse practitioners do all the things that a physician’s assistant does. But, they also have the following extra duties they can do.

Treatment and monitoring of chronic or ongoing conditions

A nurse practitioner may create a treatment plan and provide care and treatment for chronic conditions. Good examples are diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and osteoporosis. Also, there are mobility and digestive problems, and more.

Moreover, they need monitoring or treatment illnesses like Lyme disease may have lasting effects.

Prescribing medications, including controlled substances

Although a physician assistant can prescribe some medicines, they must obtain approval from an MD to do so. A nurse practitioner can prescribe almost any medication. They can also monitor and adjust patient dosages. Rules may vary by state. But, a nurse practitioner has the same prescription privileges as any practicing MD.

This allows nurse practitioners to handle many follow-up appointments. They can also treat many fundamental problems without asking an MD for advice. A nurse practitioner may seek advice from an MD for some types of prescriptions. They may also get final approval from an MD if they work with one and if that is the facility’s protocol.

Initiate treatment and diagnostics for a patient

A nurse practitioner can begin treatments and start diagnostics for a patient without the approval of an MD. They can make a treatment plan. They can refer patients to specialists to work together and provide complete care. Specialists can confirm a diagnosis. They can do so beyond doubt. The nurse practitioner‘s clinic lacks the equipment and testing capability to do so. Ensuring accurate diagnosis is essential so patients get a correct and quick diagnosis. Then, they can start the proper treatment sooner. So, they won’t waste time on treatments that don’t work.

Nurse practitioners rely more on skills outside clinical study. They use them because they interact with patients at all levels. This may include diagnosis, treatment, and preventative care.

Nurse practitioners can bridge the gaps in primary care

Nurse practitioners can do many duties. They can provide most of the primary care for patients. These patients are trying to keep up with preventive care and routine screenings. Health recommendations take into account their age and any underlying conditions.

Nurse practitioners have the authorization to diagnose and prescribe almost all medications. In some states, they can set up offices and offer medical services independently. They can do so with no MD or DO on staff to supervise.

Working together for a higher level of care is the main goal

Nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants provide valuable services to their communities. Physician assistants help MDs see more patients and can decrease patient wait times at clinics and offices. Nurse practitioners offer primary care and general visits that take the strain off MDs.

More patients can get the care they need by using the skills of medical workers of all levels. It will help them live healthier and more productive lives.

Which degree and career path is best for you?

You may be wondering, is a physician assistant above a nurse practitioner in terms of scope of practice and salary, or not?

The average pay is pretty similar. However, nurse practitioners have more career opportunities than physical assistants.

Registered nurse practitioners (RNs) can enroll in a postgraduate degree. For example, they can get a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN). Wilkes University offers an online degree program, increasing accessibility and flexibility for students.

This online MSN program lets students improve their skills. It also enables them to specialize in a field of work, like a family nurse practitioner. They can also specialize as an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse. Or they can specialize as a Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse.

Medical practices greatly need these specializations. They are very beneficial to improving patient care. Graduates will be skilled in diagnosis. This skill will let them form a diagnosis for patients. It will also ensure patients get the proper treatment and post-treatment care.

The nurse practitioners career path is best for those who want more autonomy and want to interact with patients broadly. Nurse Practitioners provide plenty of clinical services. They also provide lots of counseling, planning, and prescription services.

Physician assistants operate on a more clinical basis. A physician assistant will work directly with doctors. They will do so together. They will follow the specific regulations of the state where they practice and have some level of autonomy in their patient care.

Some states limit how much physician assistants can work alone. Other states let a physician assistant work alone.

Where do nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants work?

Both Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners work in similar settings. But, nurse practitioners sometimes have the option of having their own independent practice. They could work in hospitals, schools, and community health centers. They could also work at non-profits, mental health clinics, or OB/GYN offices.

Salaries are often similar on average. But, this can vary based on the place of work and the region you choose.

Nurses can have careers where they travel and fill in at medical centers. They do this when there is a need. This is not as common with Physician assistants. Hospitals and other medical facilities may use traveling temporary staff. They use them to fill in while they are searching for permanent staff or when there is high demand.

Understanding duties and delegating tasks of Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners That benefits patients

In a busy clinic, everyone must work together. They must work as fast as they can to give patients great care. This means understanding the roles and responsibilities of each person and their job title.

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Good delegation of tasks means more people can receive care. Skills are used where they are needed the most. Allowing Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners to work in a medical practice makes it more efficient. It also helps reduce healthcare costs for everyone.

When medical practices run well, there is less room for mistakes and misunderstandings. They work as a team. They collaborate with other medical facilities and specialists. This means that patients have an extensive network. It can ensure they get great care with few hassles.

No matter which medical career you choose. There has never been a better time to join the healthcare workforce. Even if you are in another career, training for a medical career may be wise. This is due to the huge growth projected for all healthcare roles.

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