Nurse practitioners are an important part of the modern healthcare system. The concept of creating a special type of nurse with more advanced training to help treat patients first emerged in the 1960s when there was a physician shortage. Since then, the profession has continued to grow.
Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have received advanced classroom and clinical training to provide preventive and acute health care to their patients. Most nurses today hold a master’s degree.
Nurse Practitioner vs. Physician Assistant: What’s the Difference?
There are some people who wonder what the difference is between a physician’s assistant and a nurse practitioner. After all, they both provide care for their patients in a wide variety of settings and care for a variety of conditions and illnesses. They can act as the primary care provider for many situations and also both teach patients and prescribe medications. There are, however, differences.
Much of these differences come into play regarding the backgrounds of the two professions. A physician assistant will typically have a master’s degree and received training that focuses around providing health care. They will also spend around a year of their program in supervised clinical training. A nurse practitioner will also have an advanced degree, but typically a NP will have an average of ten years of experience before they can even enter the program to obtain their advanced degree. They also have to have a nursing degree before they enter a NP program.
The regulations put forth by different states also affect the differences between the two paths. For example, both professionals are able to prescribe medication, but different states might have different limitation. In some states, a nurse practitioner does not have to work with other providers such as physicians, whereas in other states they do. A physician assistant must always have a physician function as the head of practice, but in some states this relationship can even be somewhat remote, and the PA can function with a high degree of autonomy.
Hawaii: Nurse Practitioners at a glance
Number of NPs: 912
NPs per 100,000 populations: approximately 66
Who governs/grants licenses to NPs: Hawaii Board of Nursing
Do you need to be an RN? Yes
Do you need a Master of Science in Nursing to become a NP? Yes (clinical nursing)
Are there other requirements?
•At least 30 hours of advanced pharmacology education within the last three years
•At least 1000 clinical hours in an institution as a recognized APRN practitioner within specialty, within three years immediately after application
How much does a Nurse Practitioner earn in Hawaii? $71,000 (salaries vary based on employment setting, geographic location, educational background, and years of experience)
Do NPs need a physician’s supervision for diagnosis and treatment? No
Do NPs need a physician’s supervision to prescribe medication? Must have working relationship
Are there some drug classifications NPs cannot proscribe? Not able to prescribed controlled substances until the Board of Nursing amends R&R to include requirements related to this particular type of prescribing.
Hawaii Nurse Practitioner Outlook
A Hawaii nurse practitioner is granted a fair amount of autonomy as they do not need direct supervision to prescribe, diagnosis, or treat patients. This helps to improve the levels of primary care in the state. The general shortage of primary care providers is leading to increasing conversations about the roles of nurse practitioners as primary care professionals to increase the availability of primary care to all people.
Those who are for the expansions of the responsibilities of nurse practitioners in all states believe that it will increase the care available to people throughout the country, especially those who may struggle with payments or be in rural areas where they may have limited access to a primary care doctor. On the other hand, those who believe that nurse practitioners need to function in conjunction with a physician point out that medical doctors have received many years more of training in the health care field, and encouraging patients to rely on nurse practitioners may result in substandard care. While the studies done on the subject have not found this to be a problem, their objection is noted in the debate.
As Hawaii already grants a fair amount of autonomy, requiring only a working relationship with a physician, it is likely that the field will continue to grow as people enjoy the benefits of more primary care providers.