A nurse practitioner is an excellent profession for those who are interested in working within the medical field. It is a career that often allows professionals to work with a high degree of autonomy in diagnosis and treating patients as well as prescribing medication as needed.
A nurse practitioner differs from a registered nurse because they have returned to school after being a registered nurse and received an advanced degree, often a master’s degree. This degree requires additional clinical hours, as well as academic training, to prepare nurses for the independent nature of their work.
Nurse Practitioner vs. Physician Assistant: What’s the Difference?
Nurse practitioners and physician assistants do have many similarities. Both professionals are able to prescribe medication, treat and diagnosis illnesses and work directly with their patients, often as a primary care provider. They also can work in a range of environments, from rural offices to busy urban hospitals.
Both nurse practitioners and physician assistants greatly assist with providing primary care with the current shortage of primary care physicians. There are, however, many differences between the two, mostly related to the education and background as well as the work autonomy for the two professions.
A nurse practitioner will enter their program with a prior nursing degree and nursing license. They also tend to enter with extensive experience, an average of ten years. This gives them a significant head start over physician assistants. Their program will include intensive academics to further enhance their knowledge of the medical field, as well as clinical hours for additional experience. They then must take an exam and pass it to receive their license.
Once licensed, a nurse practitioner has varying degrees of autonomy in their practice, depending on their current state. Some states allow them to diagnosis and treat on their own; others require supervision by a physician.
A physician assistant, on the other hand, tends to follow a more academic introduction to medicine. They will continue right into their advanced degree, also usually a master’s degree, without gaining much work experience first. Their program will also include academics and clinical hours.
Like a nurse practitioner, a physician assistant must also pass an exam to become licensed and certified. Once they have their license, physician assistants must work in a practice that has a physician as the head.
Georgia: Nurse Practitioners at a glance
Number of NPs: 4,866
NPs per 100,000 populations: about 50
Who governs/grants licenses to NPs: Georgia Board of Nursing
Do you need to be an RN? Yes
Do you need a Master of Science Nursing to become a NP?
No, but you must graduate from a nurse practitioner education program that is at least nine months long.
Are there other requirements?
Must be certified by the American Nurses Association, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Associates and Practitioners, AWHONN, or AANP and be authorized by the board to practice.
How much does a Nurse Practitioner earn in Georgia?
$98,000 (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?
Yes, a NP must work with a collaborating physician.
Do NPs need a physician’s supervision to prescribe medication?
They have the authority to prescribe but the prescription must show the name of a collaborating physician’s name.
Are there some drug classifications NPs cannot prescribe? If so, please describe.
NPs can prescribe, with collaboration, controlled substances on Schedule III-V.
Georgia Nurse Practitioner Outlook
Currently, there is a national shortage of primary care providers. Studies have shown that this can drive up general healthcare costs as people are less likely to be involved with preventive medicine and may not catch or prevent conditions until it is too late.
As people take notice of the logical step to increase primary care providers by allowing nurse practitioners to function more independently, there are many who say that this would not solve the problem because nurse practitioners do not receive as extensive of training as medical doctors do. No studies have shown a decrease in the quality of care, however.
A Georgia nurse practitioner is limited in their freedom, which hinders the professional growth to a degree. The career does earn a decent salary compared to the rest of the country, which may attract practitioners to the area. As the debate over the role of nurse practitioners continues, there may be a lessoning of the burden upon them, which will also help encourage growth.