Advanced Practice Clinicians: NPs and PAs

Advanced Practice Clinicians (APCs) are an integral part of our care teams. APCs consist of physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs). Both PAs and NPs provide high-quality primary and specialty care for our patients. Similar to physicians, APCs require advanced training and education beyond their initial medical training. Our APCs are focused on health promotion, disease prevention and health education to guide patients to make smarter health and lifestyle choices.

What is the difference between a physician assistant (PA) and a nurse practitioner (NP)?

The most significant difference between a PA and a NP is in their educational preparation. A PA attends an intense, three-year graduate-level program with many of the same courses taken by physicians, and receives a master’s degree.

A NP is a registered nurse who attends graduate-level, advanced clinical training beyond their initial professional registered nurse preparation. NPs either have a master’s or doctoral degree.

Are PAs and NPs board-certified?

PAs and NPs practice under the rules and regulations of the state and are board-certified licensed healthcare professionals. PAs are board-certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. NPs are certified through one or more certifying bodies, including the American Association of Nurse Practitioners or the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Both PAs and NPs must participate in ongoing continuing education, maintain a minimum number of hours in clinical practice and re-certify on a regular basis. (PAs every 10 years and NPs every 5 years).

What level of care can an APC provide for a patient?

Both PAs and NPs may examine, diagnose, treat and manage acute and chronic illness, order and interpret tests and prescribe medications. They work in collaboration with physicians to provide a variety of services to our patients, including patient-centered care with a focus on health promotion, disease prevention, health education and counseling.

Would there ever be a situation where I may see an APC for ongoing care instead of a physician?

A patient may be seen by an APC for follow-up care after surgery or a procedure. The patient’s physician will continue to be involved in their overall care, but an APC may be the patient’s primary provider for follow-up monitoring and treatment. All PAs and NPs work under the supervision of a physician and collaborate with them on patient cases to ensure that comprehensive and personalized care is provided to all patients.

Can an APC serve as my primary care provider?

Yes! APCs provide quality primary and specialty care services similar to those of a physician. Both PAs and NPs can diagnose, treat and prescribe for acute and chronic health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma, and are prepared to deliver primary care with a focus on disease prevention and health promotion. Also, with increasing demands upon our physicians to provide complex and advanced medical and surgical care, you may find that a PA or NP is able to see you more quickly.