To practice medicine you don’t need to be an MD. There are many ways, methods, and specializations that can be just as satisfying, if not more so – it all depends on your career goals. Two very promising career paths at the moment are a Nurse Practitioner (NP) and Physician Assistant (PA). And now, more than ever, these careers are highly sought after because patients desire for cost-effective, yet quality healthcare has created an extensive gap in the market.
But before you think either of the two will be suitable for your career ambitions it’s best to know enough about the career to make a reasonable decision.
Even though these two careers are fairly popular they are often confused because of their similarities. However, there are a number of fundamental differences that are important to consider before you decide which field to enter in to.
While the function of a Physician Assistant and a Nurse Practitioner are similar, how they carry out this function differs greatly. PA’s may work alongside physicians but many times work autonomously to create treatment plans to heal and treat specific diseases or conditions. Therefore their work is usually more medicine based and disease centered.
Nurse Practitioners, on the other hand, take on a different role. They usually specialize in one field, for example, geriatric care or feminine wellness. Their approach will also be far different as it’ll be a holistic, long term approach. They’ll often work alongside physicians to educate patients and give them the necessary information to assist in their own healing process.
Even with this difference, both the Physician Assistant and the Nurse Practitioner perform diagnostic tests, prescribe treatment and conduct patient assessments.
If you’d like to work independently, or you’re thinking about starting your own practice in the future, how much control you have (without the need for oversight from an MD) will be important.
Both Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners have some level of authority, however, this level of authority will depend on what state they’ll be operating in.
Physician Assistants have far greater autonomy than NPs. In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, they are able to prescribe medication and even order advanced imaging without the oversight of an MD. In some cases MDs may even require their expertise when diagnosing patients.
However, many Nurse Practitioner will still require the oversight of an MD to operate.
This has really changed recently, as over 20 states allow Nurse Practitioners to operate independently (in their area of expertise) without the need for MD oversight. A further 19 states require that Nurse Practitioners have an MDs oversight when prescribing medication.
This is a list of states that allow Nurse Practitioners to work autonomously. And should help you get started.
States That Allow Nurse Practitioners To Practice Without MD Supervision
Another significant difference between a Physician Assistant and a Nurse Practitioner is the academic route they take to acquire their expertise.
A Physician Assistant will need to have a bachelor’s degree before undergoing specified PA training. This should take 6 years to complete but could take up to 8 years.
However, a Nurse Practitioner will first need to become a registered nurse before embarking on additional education to become an APRN. This can take anywhere from 2 years to over 6 years to complete, and will likely include a specialization in a particular field of study.
This doesn’t take into account the hours of practice and continued education needed to recertify. In most states a Physician Assistant will need to recertify every 10 years and have accumulated 100 additional medical education credits.
Whereas, a nurse practitioner will need to recertify every 5 years, and have completed 1000 clinical hours and 75 hours of continuing education hours.
Salary and Job Prospects Of a Physician’s Assistant
As quality healthcare becomes more accessible, so does the need for PAs. In fact, Physician Assistants is one of the fastest growing careers in the US. With a growth of 38% between 2008 and 2018. Therefore PAs can expect to make between $102,000 and $106,873 annually. However, their income will be based on the number of hours they work, as the average hourly rate of a PA is $60.
Salary and Job Prospects of A Nurse Practitioner
Now that more patients are looking for holistic, affordable and specialized care NP’s are in greater demand. They can expect to earn between $72,420 and $205,740 annually. But this figure will depend on their state and specialty. For example, an anesthetist will earn more than their follow NP colleagues, and likewise will an NP in a state that allows greater autonomy.
Regardless of whether you decide to become a Nurse Practitioner or a Physician Assistant one thing both PAs and NPs have in common is their desire to help people be the healthiest they can possibly be.
Looking for a Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner Job?
Are you already a Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner and are searching for Physician Assistant Jobs or Nurse Practitioner Jobs in the US? Please contact us today and our experience Physician Recruiters will help you to find the right Physician Job!« Back