Who's Caring for You During Your Medical Visit?
Just like advances in medicine, who's providing your medical care is changing too. It's more common to be treated by a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, in addition to doctors and nurses. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners often work in primary care, as well as urgent care and specialty care. They’re an increasingly common and important part of the team guiding you to your best health.
It’s likely that a nurse practitioner (NP) or a physician assistant (PA) has already helped you. NPs and PAs are both considered advanced practice clinicians. Their role on your healthcare team improves your access to care, while reducing the time it takes to be evaluated and treated when you need it.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse practitioners diagnose, monitor and treat medical conditions, perform physical exams, order diagnostic testing and write prescriptions—all with a focus on patient-centered care. This means that NPs work with patients to ensure that decisions about their health respect their wants, needs and preferences. This approach to care reduces underused and overuse of medical services, improves patient satisfaction with care, and improves their clinical outcomes.
Certified nurse practitioners complete master’s or doctoral degree programs, and have advanced clinical training beyond their initial professional registered nurse preparation. Nurse practitioners must also pass rigorous national board exams before they’re certified in their chosen specialty or sub-specialty.
In addition, they emphasize caring and compassion, while focusing on health education and disease prevention and empowering patients to make changes to improve their health.
What is a Physician Assistant?
Physician assistants practice in primary care, specialty care, and surgery. They perform physical exams, diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medications, counsel patients on preventive care, and assist in surgery. PAs also make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes to supervise patient care.
Physician assistants undergo rigorous training. First, they complete a bachelor’s degree in biology or pre-med, and then go on to complete a master’s degree that focuses on a medical school curriculum. PAs must also pass a national certification exam. Afterward, they can become licensed in the state of their practice.
Like physicians, both PAs and NPs are required to complete continuing medical education throughout their careers as well.
Patients Are in Good Hands with an NP or PA
“Patients should feel at ease seeing an advanced practice clinician (NP or PA),” says Virtua physician assistant Kelly Paglione, PA. “They’re highly skilled, trusted healthcare providers who truly enjoy spending extra time educating patients and promoting wellness.”
Physician assistants and nurse practitioners work in collaboration with physicians in their practice. “Patients will, without a doubt, see the positive benefits of a team-based approach to care,” says Paglione.
The extensive training of NPs and PAs make them a valued part of any healthcare team, and their attention to care will make them valuable to you. They truly pride themselves on delivering exceptional care to their patients.
Updated January 14, 2022