NP and APN Roles Comparison

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a nurse who has acquired the expert knowledge base of a master’s level education. NPs are considered expert clinicians because they can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication in their role of promoting disease prevention and health management. As De, Moons, and Callens (2008) noted, in some healthcare systems NPs are allowed to practice independently and granted full prescription rights. On the other hand, advanced practice nurse is a term used to refer to a constellation of four different roles that include nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwife, certified nurse specialist, and certified registered nurse anesthetist (Hamric, Hanson, & Tracy, 2014). For the advanced practice nurse, a university education to master or doctoral level is required as the knowledge base. Additionally, APNs are expected to have complex decision-making skills and clinical expertise to be able to play the role of their expanded practice. Notably, a certain group of APNs is NPs. The context and the country they are accredited to work usually shape the scope of practice for advanced nurse practitioners.

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants play a critically significant role in the healthcare system. Both nurse practitioners and physician assistants hold an advanced degree and are allowed to provide direct patient care under a physician’s supervision. The competencies for the PA and NP have similar foundations in core knowledge, advocacy for patients, quality improvement, and system-based practice (Hass, 2016). During training, nurse practitioners are trained along a nursing model at a graduate, master’s or doctorate level, while physician assistants follow a medical model at a master’s level. Additionally, although NP and Pas are certified at the national level, state laws determine their scope of practice and the extent to which they can practice independently (Gadbois, Miller, & Tyler, 2015).

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De, G. S., Moons, P., Callens, B., Gut, C., Lindpaintner, L., & Spirig, R. (2008). Introducing Advanced Practice Nurses / Nurse Practitioners in health care systems: a framework for reflection and analysis. Swiss Medical Weekly, 138, 43-44.

Gadbois, E. A., Miller, E. A., Tyler, D., & Intrator, O. (2015). Trends in state regulation of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, 2001 to 2010. Medical Care Research and Review: Mcrr, 72(2), 200-219.

Hamric, A. B., Hanson, C. M., Tracy, M. F., & O’Grady, E. T. (2014). Advanced practice nursing (Hamric). Advanced practice nursing: An integrative approach. St. Louis Missouri: Elsevier.

Hass, V. (2016). Physician assistants and nurse practitioners are not interchangeable. Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, 29(4), 9-12.

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