Nurse practitioners offer their patients medical care, diagnosis, and treatment after years of experience and advanced degrees. They are extremely knowledgeable and a vital part of a health care team. In many situations, nurse practitioners are able to function as primary health care providers for their patients, offering guidance, education, and medication as needed.
Nurse practitioners begin their careers as licensed registered nurses, often with considerable experience, before they enter an advanced degree program, usually a master’s degree program, which enables them to become a nurse practitioner.
Nurse Practitioner vs. Physician Assistant: What’s the Difference?
Both nurse practitioners and physician assistants are important aspects of any health care team, especially within primary care. They are able to offer primary care to many patients, sometimes even functioning as the primary care provider. Both positions have the training and certification required to write prescriptions, diagnosis, and treat illnesses in their patients, and they can work in a variety of areas, from rural to urban environments. Many in the medical profession believe that the two positions offer many benefits because they can bring primary care to patients who might not have access to physicians on a regular basis, such as impoverished rural areas. On the other hand, there are many differences between these two jobs, mostly relating to their educational backgrounds and the degree of autonomy they have in their work.
Nurse practitioners begin their careers as registered nurses, meaning that they already have a degree and license, and often an average of ten years experience before they even enter a program to become a nurse practitioner. Then, they begin a graduate degree program that prepares them to take the final exam for their license. The program includes both classroom hours and clinical hours. Once they are licensed, a nurse practitioner’s freedom varies depending on the state. Some states allow nurse practitioner to make their own medical decisions, while others require supervision from a physician to diagnosis or write prescriptions.
A physician assistant, on the other hand, will typically move right into their advanced degree from an undergraduate degree, as they do not have a prior license that allows them to practice and gain experience before to the advanced degree. Their program also has classroom hours and clinical hours, followed by a licensing exam. Once they are licensed, physician assistants must work part of a practice that has a physician as the head. There have been cases, however, where the physician is actually remote, and the relationship between the two is conducted largely through the internet and phone.
Delaware: Nurse Practitioners at a glance
Number of NPs: 720
NPs per 100,000 populations: about 80
Who governs/grants licenses to NPs: Delaware Board of Nursing and Board of Medical Practice
Do you need to be an RN? Yes
Do you need a Master of Science in Nursing degree to become a NP? Only required master’s degree or certificate with national certification
How much does a Nurse Practitioner earn in Delaware? $89,000 (salaries vary based on the 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? Authorized to prescribe controlled substances on Schedule II-V
Are there drug classifications that NPs cannot prescribe? If so provide details:
Can only prescribe on Schedule II-V
Delaware Nurse Practitioner Outlook
There are currently debates over the role nurse practitioners should play in providing primary care. Some studies have shown that overall health costs rise when people do not have access to primary care providers. Since there is an overall shortage of primary care providers, there are people who believe that nurse practitioners can help combat this shortage and help bring down health care costs. Those who are against this solution say that nurses do not receive the same training as a physician, so relying on them could result in lower qualities of care. On the other hand, no study conducted on the issue has found the quality of care to be lowered when administered by nurse practitioners.
A Delaware nurse practitioner is already granted a fair amount of independence, thus, allowing them to serve their patients with fewer barriers. This may help lower health care costs for the state. Additionally, nurse practitioners earn just over the national average for salaries. It is likely that the field will continue to grow over the next several years.