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If you are hoping to expand your practice beyond physicians, you might be considering adding either a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner. Both are viable options for serving patients in a cost-effective way.

As the United States faces a shortage of physicians, alternatives like PAs and NPs are becoming more and more popular. 

A physician assistant or a nurse practitioner can provide many of the same services as a physician, but come with a lower price tag and a lot of positives. 

NPs and PAs both earn advanced degrees, though don’t spend as much time in school as physicians. And while NPs and PAs frequently work in conjunction with physicians, depending on the state, both have differing degrees of autonomy.


How are PAs and NPs different?

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners both study medicine but their education focuses on different aspects of the field. 

NPs follow a patient-centered course of study, that looks at the whole person, mentally and emotionally as well as physically. Nurse practitioners choose a field based on a population. 

PAs training is disease-center. This means learning about disease pathology and entering into practice through anatomy and physiology. Physician assistants choose a medical specialty.

Whether or not PAs and NPs can practice without a physician depends on state regulations.  Nurse practitioners hold prescription privileges in all 50 states and Washington, DC. PAs also can prescribe medication in all 50 states; Washington, DC; US territories; and the uniformed services. These privileges, however, vary from state to state, with differing levels of restriction on prescriptive authority as part of a provider’s scope of practice.


Education and recertification 

Both physician assistants and nurse practitioners require graduate degrees. According to Nursing Journal, it usually takes students six to eight years to become an NP and at least six years to become a PA.

Nurse practitioners must get recertified every five years while physician assistants must recertify every 10 years.


Daily activities

Day to day, physician assistants perform a variety of tasks, depending on their specialty. They will examine and diagnose patients and provide treatment plans. They perform many of the same tasks as physicians, including prescribing medication and sometimes performing surgery. 

PAs work collaboratively with physicians.

Nurse practitioners also examine and treat patients. They focus on promoting health but also have the ability to prescribe medication.


What employers need to know

When whether to hire an NP or a PA, there’s a variety of things to consider. What are your state regulations concerning each? What sort of specialty are you looking to fill.

Financial considerations can also play a role. reports that the Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists the 2017 median pay for NPs at $110,930 per year and the 2017 median pay for PAs at $104,860 per year.

The website notes that the salary for each can vary by state. 

Before you decide to hire a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, decide which is the best fit for your practice. 

If you are interested in hiring a nurse practitioner, you can visit with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners,  If your practice has decided to hire a physician assistant,  visiting the American Academy of PAs can also be helpful.

Once you are ready, different resources are available to you depending on which direction you want to go.  Seeking a reliable resource, such as a recruiter can provide valuable resources and references. At Physician Assistant Solutions, being active clinicians, we are able to provide a unique perspective from the provider and practice viewpoint.  We have assisted in finding the perfect provider fit for your practice, and direct you to resources that can assist in this hiring process. 

When you are ready, PA Solutions can help you with that search.

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