Q: Recently there was an article regarding the use of physician assistants and nurse practitioners in the medical field. What, if any, is the difference between a PA and a NP?
—Renee VanderBoom, Norcross
A: The main differences are training and background, according to published reports and career websites. Also, physician assistants must work under the direction of a doctor, but a nurse practitioner could have more autonomy, depending on where they live, according to The Washington Post. “While some states have no requirements for an NP to have a collaborative relationship with a physician or other providers, so that they are more ‘independent,’ other states do have requirements for some level of collaborative agreement to be in place,” Mary Jo Goolsby, director of research and education at the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, told the paper. PAs have at least a master’s degree and attend classes and programs that train them in medical areas. They can be either general practitioners or specialize in a area, such as pediatrics or surgical care, and often began work directly after training. Most NPs have several years nursing experience before becoming a NP, and most have an advanced degree. PAs and NPs are licensed, accredited and regulated by their states. They both can diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries, and they can write prescriptions, with some limitations, according to their state.
Andy Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email email@example.com (include name, phone and city).