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What are Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants?

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on Oct 27, 2015

The next time you call to make an appointment with your primary care physician, you may be asked, “Would you like to see our Nurse Practitioner,” or “Would you like to see our Physician Assistant?”

Before you automatically say that you would rather see your normal physician, learn what Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Physician Assistants (PAs) do, what the differences are and how they can add to your health care experience.


“Physicians and midlevel providers, such as NPs and PAs, can work together in the primary care and specialty practices to meet the comprehensive health care needs of patients,” says Dr. Gaston Dana, one of the Johnson Memorial Health Adult Medicine Specialists. “In a time where we see a shortage of physicians especially in primary care, midlevel providers play a very important role in making sure patients are seen and taken care of in a timely manner.”

So, while you may have to wait a day or two to get in to see your normal primary care physician, a NP or PA working in the practice may be able to see you the same day.

The primary differences between NPs and PAs are that NPs must have previous nursing experience, usually 10 years or more, before pursuing their graduate degrees. Also, while many NPs work within a practice with physicians, they are more independent and can establish their own practice. PAs hold a Master’s Degree and work under the supervision of a physician.

Dr. Dana goes on to say, “We have a great practice and our PA (Maggie) is the best! Patients very much appreciate her caring, comprehensive and careful approach to meet all of their needs.”

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Topics: Primary Care, Doctor, Health Care