N.P.s and P.A.s

Health Care Providers: P.A.s and N.P.s


When you make a sick or well visit to your doctor’s office or are admitted to the hospital, you might see a physician assistant (P.A.) or a nurse practitioner (N.P.) instead of a doctor. A P.A. or an N.P. is also known as an advance practice provider.

P.A.s and N.P.s provide many of the same services as a physician. This includes:

  • wellness check-ups
  • diagnosing or treating you when you are sick
  • managing ongoing (chronic) diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • ordering X-rays or laboratory tests
  • performing procedures such as stitches
  • writing prescriptions

The differences between a P.A. and an N.P. are in their education and experience, and how they are legally allowed to practice medicine.

Physician Assistant (P.A.)

P.A.s are licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of a doctor. This means that there must either be a doctor on staff at the office or that the P.A. has direct access to a doctor by phone for review of cases. P.A.s practice in doctor's offices or hospitals.

P.A. students must have earned a bachelor’s degree. They must also have completed at least two years of courses in basic science before applying to a P.A. program. Some educational programs require prior health care experience for admission, but not all.

Education and Licensing:

  • Receive a combination of classroom and clinical (hands-on medical) instruction
  • Complete clinical rotations that usually total over 2,000 hours
  • Receive national certification
  • Must pass a state license exam
  • Complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years to keep certification

Nurse Practitioner (N.P.)

N.P.s can practice either in a doctor’s office, in a hospital or in their own private practice.

N.P. students must be a registered nurse before entering an N.P. educational program. Most students have received a Bachelor of Science in nursing. In addition, they must have several years of practicing, clinical (hands-on medical) experience before applying to school to become a nurse practitioner.

Education and Licensing:

  • Earn a master’s degree (or sometimes even a doctoral degree)
  • Receive training in a specific field, such as family medicine or pediatrics
  • Between 500 to 700 hours of clini​cal rotation experience
  • Pass a national certification exam in the chosen specialty
  • Hold a state license
  • Meet national continuing education requirements to continue to practice
  • Renew license every two years

At Floyd

At Floyd, patients see N.P.s and P.A.s in primary care and urgent care offices, and in the hospital in areas such as surgery and wound care. These advance practice providers work with doctors in a team approach to provide the needed care.


A growing population means that more health care providers will be needed to care for us when we are sick or healthy.  

N.P.s and P.A.s help fill this gap. These advance practice providers offer the same care you receive from your doctor when you visit a primary care, urgent care or specialist’s office, or are admitted to the hospital.

They are trained in providing preventive and sick care, managing chronic illnesses, performing procedures, and diagnosing illnesses and diseases. They also know when something is beyond their ability or knowledge to handle, so that they can refer you to a physician or specialist.

Find a Primary Care Physician near you

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