Certified Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants More Involved in Patient Care

Health Minute

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As patient populations increase and health care services expand, more and more patients are finding the quality care of a physician without seeing a doctor.

How so?  

Many Premier HealthNet practices are adding Advanced Practice Providers to their staff who work under the direct supervision of a primary care physician, and can perform many of the health services that a doctor can – increasing the availability of care, and providing health education, counseling, and some same-day appointments. They are certified nurse practitioners (CNP) and physician assistants (PA), and their presence in the health care field is growing, according to the American College of PhysiciansOff Site Icon (ACP).

Adding CNPs and PAs to primary care practices allows Premier HealthNet to effectively respond to the limited access primary care physicians in the health care field, while still enhancing the quality of care and access to services.

“Placing a nurse practitioner in an office allows us to change to a more cost effective care team model: Practices can continue to offer patients same-day appointments, offer more health services and deliver a unique caretaking model of nursing that includes more comprehensive, personalized education and counseling,” said Dr. Ralofsky, president and CEO of Premier HealthNet.

Providers like CNPs and PAs are increasing in numbers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor StatisticsOff Site Icon (BLS). The rise is due in part to the growing demand for health care services as the population ages and as more Americans obtain health insurance, according to the BLS. Other factors include widespread chronic disease and a shortage of doctors, according to the BLS. 

CNPs and PAs don’t receive the same training as an MD or a DO (doctor of osteopathic medicine), but do provide a range of patient care with prescriptive power, according to the  National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). Patients often report being satisfied with the level and quality of care provided by CNPs and PAs, according to the NIH.

What is a Certified Nurse Practitioner?

CNPs are registered nurses who have received a graduate degree in advanced practice nursing, according to the NIH. 

According to the American Association of Nurse PractitionersOff Site Icon, CNPs can:

  • diagnose and treat injuries and acute and chronic conditions 
  • educate patients on disease prevention and preventive care
  • manage patients' overall care
  • order, perform and interpret tests 
  • prescribe medications

CNPs work in many settings, including cardiology, emergency care, family medicine, oncology, pediatrics, and women’s health, according to the NIH.

CNPs are regulated at both the national and state levels, and many states require CNPs to have a master’s degree and national certification, according to the NIH. In some states, CNPs can work independently in clinics, and in others, work under the supervision of a physician, according to the NIH.

What is a Physician Assistant? 

PAs are part of a health care team, and they practice medicine under the direct supervision of a physician, according to the NIH. PAs provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive health care services, according to the NIH.

According to the American Academy of Physician AssistantsOff Site Icon, a PA can:

  • assist in surgery
  • conduct a physical exam
  • develop treatment plans
  • diagnose and treat illnesses
  • order and interpret tests
  • take a patient’s medical history
  • write prescriptions

PAs enter a two-year program after receiving a bachelor’s degree and have experience working in a health care field according to the ACP. The program takes the PA candidate through rotations in internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, general surgery, emergency medicine, and psychiatry. 

The PA also attends classes in the sciences and clinical skills, according to the ACP. The PA does not have to complete an internship or residency, as MDs and DOs would.

Once the PA candidate completes the program, he or she must receive national certification and obtain a license by the state in which he or she intends to practice medicine, according to the ACP.

Both CNPs and PAs are required to complete continuing education courses in order to maintain their certification and/or licensure, according to the NIH.

Find more information about certified nurse practitioners and physician assistants, or find a physician.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.