How many times have you visited a doctor’s office, urgent care, or hospital and received treatment by a Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant? Chances are high that it was more than a few times. This is not a surprise given the growth in both areas. According to Nurse.org, Nurse Practitioner jobs are expected to grow between 2014-2024 by thirty-five percent. Physician Assistant growth is not far behind, with an expected increase of thirty-one percent over a ten-year span. So why the spike in demand for these roles?
NP/PA vs MD
There are many similarities between the roles of a Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner and a Physician. In terms of their roles, Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners and Physicians tend to overlap, performing wellness checkups, sick visits, and depending on the state, prescribing medication. Some practices allow Nurse Practitioners to work autonomously, in a sense running their own practice, while others prefer the Physician Assistants or Nurse Practitioners to be closely supervised by an onsite physician.
A Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner require two years of school after their bachelor’s degree, while physicians require four years of medical school. Typically, Physician Assistants or Nurse Practitioners can jump into the working world after passing their state license exam, while physicians will need to continue on through up to seven years of residency training and pass their medical exam and board certifications before working in the profession. The money saved in education alone is a huge benefit for many who decide to take the Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner path.
Differences Between Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners
So, what is the difference between a Physician Assistant and a Nurse Practitioner? The biggest difference between the two is the practice model on which they are trained. Nurse Practitioners are trained on a nursing-based model (patient centered), while Physician Assistants are trained in line with medical doctors (disease centered). Another major difference between the two is the area of medicine they practice. Nurse Practitioners select their area from the beginning of their program and tend to stick to a specific primary population, such as pediatrics or internal medicine. Physician Assistants tend to specialize and enter fields such as emergency medicine or orthopedics.
Increased Median Salary
Health care as a whole is a steady career field to work in, as the demand is always there. However, the salary expectations for these roles continues to climb. In general, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants earn more than $30,000 more annually than Registered Nurses. Add a specialty and that number grows even higher.
Physician Shortage = Greater Demand
It is no secret that our country is facing a severe physician shortage. In fact, by 2030, the United States is expected to have a shortage of over 120,000 physicians. With the always increasing cost of college tuition, the number of students attending medical school will continue to decline. The students who do successfully complete medical school and their residency are picking up salaried roles with hospitals and chains over opening their own practices. The Primary Care field will see the greatest shortage as the United States population continues to age and doctors continue to move away from the field.
Health Care will always be a field with guaranteed growth and job opportunities. As the physician shortage continues, the number of Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners in medical offices and hospital settings will continue to rise. These roles offer a great starting salary and a fraction of the cost of education and liability that comes with being a physician. Add in generally regular hours and ample opportunities, and it is no surprise that Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners have such a bright outlook!