Looking across a hospital ward, emergency department, or primary care clinic aligned side by side, you may not see any differences between an advanced practice nurse (APN) or physician assistant (PA). However, if you took a closer look at their education programs and credentialing, you would find considerable differences.
Although both professions hold advanced degrees, the approach to patient care differs, as well as the training they receive, including different models of practice. The APN is trained according to the nursing model, while the PA attends programs that are more in line with the medical model. The APN has a patient-centered model, while the PA adheres to a disease-centered model. Consequently, their approach to caring for the same patient population differs in viewpoint and philosophy.
Entry into the APNrequires a nursing degree or related field from an accredited college or university. The curriculum includes coursework in health care policy, advocacy, outcomes, advanced assessment, diagnosis, and practice skills as well as, pharmacology, pathophysiology, and a final capstone project.
There are six specialty APN tracks including pediatrics, women’s/gender health, family practice, adult-gerontology, psychiatric, and neonatal. Additionally, there are three additional advanced practice registered nurses tracks: certified nurse anesthesia, certified nurse midwife, and clinical nurse leader. In addition to academic hours, there is a minimum of 1,000 supervised, direct patient care clinical hours in a variety of locations covering all populations specific to the identified specialty.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the role ofas follows: “Physician assistants practice medicine under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive health care services, as delegated by a physician.” The physician assistant is a master’s prepared education.