Physicians, PAs, and NPs: Understanding Different Healthcare Roles

As healthcare facilities across the U.S. expand their teams to accommodate a growing volume of patients, many organizations are employing medical professionals with varying backgrounds and expertise. Currently, physicians (MDs and DOs), physician assistants (PAs), and nurse practitioners (NPs) are some of the most widely employed healthcare providers. But what differentiates these roles and their functions within the healthcare system.

Physicians (MDs and DOs)

Physicians, one the most widely known types of healthcare professionals, are medical doctors who hold advanced degrees: MD (Doctor of Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). In addition to an extremely intensive education, physicians must complete in-depth training in a formal residency program and hold a state license to practice medicine. Physicians work in all areas of medicine and treat patients in a wide range of healthcare settings, from small clinics to large hospitals. Among many other responsibilities, physicians’ work involves documenting medical findings, determining patient treatment plans, conducting patient visits, diagnosing medical conditions, reviewing test results, and performing surgeries and medical procedures.

Physician assistants (PAs)

Physician assistants (PAs) are licensed medical professionals who hold advanced degrees and work in a variety of healthcare environments. PAs work alongside many types of healthcare professionals, including physicians and nurses, to provide quality patient care. PAs perform a wide range of functions involved in treating patients, including conducting patient exams, diagnosing illnesses, prescribing medication, ordering scans, and managing treatment plans. As the physician shortage continues to take a toll on facilities across the country, it’s projected that healthcare organizations will increasingly hire PAs to fill vital provider staffing needs and fulfill increasing patient demand.

Nurse practitioners (NPs)

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are fully trained and licensed members of healthcare teams at many types of healthcare facilities. NPs are required to hold an advanced nursing degree, as well as receive training and certification required for licensure. It’s important to note that NPs hold more responsibility than registered nurses (RNs), frequently mentoring and supervising nursing professionals within their work environments. Often employed in primary care and urgent care settings, NPs are trained on many aspects of patient care, including ordering and interpreting medical tests, prescribing medications, and collaborating with other members of a patient’s healthcare team.

By educating communities about these different roles in healthcare, you can ensure that every patient feels confident knowing their needs are being met by a comprehensive team of qualified medical professionals.

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