A physician assistant (PA) is a healthcare professional licensed to practice medicine with supervision of a licensed physician. A physician assistant is concerned with preventing, maintaining, and treating human illness and injury by providing a broad range of health care services that are traditionally performed by a physician. Physician assistants conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive healthcare, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions.
Physician assistants exercise autonomy in medical decision making as determined by their supervising physician. Physician assistants are not to be confused with medical assistants, who perform administrative and simple clinical tasks with limited college-level education in hospitals and clinics under the direct supervision of physicians, physician assistants, registered nurses, or nurse practitioners.
An Advanced Practitioner Registered Nurse (APRN) is a Practitioner who has completed graduate-level education (either a Master's or a Doctoral degree). All advanced practitioners are Registered Nurses with additional education and training. To become licensed to practice, Advanced Practitioners hold national certification in an area of specialty (family, women's health, pediatrics, adult, acute care, etc.), and are licensed through state nursing boards rather than medical boards. The core philosophy of the field is individualized care. APs focus on patients' conditions as well as the effects of illness on the lives of the patients and their families. Advanced Practitioners make prevention, wellness, and patient education priorities. Another focus is educating patients about their health and encouraging them to make healthy choices. In addition to health care services, Advanced practitioners conduct research and are often active in patient advocacy activities.
Advanced Practitioners treat both physical and mental conditions through comprehensive history taking, physical exams, physical therapy, and ordering tests and therapies for patients within their scope of practice. APs can serve as a patient's primary health care provider, and see patients of all ages depending on their designated scope of practice.