Difference Between a Family Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant

FNPs and PAs may execute parallel roles but aren’t necessarily one and the same.

The nurse practitioner and physician assistant are experts in health care. These two medical professionals may perform similar functions. However, you need to distinguish between the two and find out the specialization of each.

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have gone through advanced education and clinical preparations. These enable them to provide an eclectic range of preventive and acute health care services. These professional nurses have to complete graduate-level education degrees that will lead to master’s degrees.

The responsibilities of family nurse practitioners include the following:

  • Obtain health histories and provide complete physical examinations
  • Diagnose and treat common acute and chronic problems
  • Read laboratory results and x-rays
  • Dispense medications and conduct other therapies
  • Conduct health education and counseling with focus on prevention of sicknesses and health maintenance
  • Refer patients to other health professionals

Nurse practitioners are capable of doing these due to the education, practical training and experience that they obtain. Data provided by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners indicated these nurses work for almost 40 hours every week and take home an average median salary of roughly $73,620 annually.

Physician Assistant

The physician assistant normally performs his or her duties under the close supervision of a physician. Just like a nurse practitioner, the physician assistant can make a diagnosis of ailments and issue medicine prescriptions. However, the physician assistant needs to work strictly under the guidance of a licensed physician. The nurse practitioner has more independence although the physician assistant can acquire a principal degree of autonomy depending largely on capability and readiness of the doctor to delegate responsibilities. Some areas of specialization that the physician assistant can choose are Family Medicine, General Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Pediatrics, General Surgery, Geriatrics, and Orthopedics.

Physician assistants can detect common disorders and formulate treatment plans as well as prescribe medicines. However, there are limitations to the types of drugs that a physician assistant can prescribe. At the same time, physician assistants can order tests and translate results of x-rays and laboratory tests.

Background and Orientation

The family nurse practitioner may work separately or in partnership with a doctor and should have a license as registered nurse before being accepted into the NP educational program. Nearly all nurse practitioners are prepared for master’s degrees. These nurses are given the authority to work as advanced practice nurses by state regulatory boards.

On the other hand, physician assistants are licensed to practice medicine under the administration of physicians. These professionals are trained in rigorous accredited learning programs which utilize the medical model. Physician assistants take a national certification examination right after graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and successfully passing the national certification examinations. This is a requirement for state licensure.

The nurse practitioner has a nursing background while the physician assistant owns a different health career orientation. Both fields have relatively different sources as well as history and operate under distinct state laws and titles. Nevertheless, their roles in the health field can very similar.