NP vs PA, what is the difference?

What is the difference between a PA (physician’s assistant) and a NP (nurse practitioner)?

I get this question A LOT. Surprisingly enough, it is not just from those outside of the healthcare realm, it comes from my peers as well.

As I was looking for some sassy graphic to go with a post about my first few days in my role as an emergency room NP, I came across this link comparing not just NPs, PAs, but Physicians as well. Although I think a lot could be added to it, I wanted to get it posted here so I didn’t lose the link.

As I need to get in the shower for my 3rd shift at my new job (wooHoo!), I will leave it at this, and throw a gigantic “you are it!” to anyone that has better links. Every time I say I am going to look something up, or post something later it doesn’t happen… I won’t say it!

Anyone have any vitamin C? Don’t think hand washing is gonna keep me from catching what my pathetic immune system has been exposed to this week.

You may also like


  1. Hi: Read the “differences” and generally agree. I think NPs/PAs do 99% of the same things and the differences are specialty related. A family practice PA and an FNP are generally the same. BTW, so is a family doc. If any of the 3 walked into a room without a name tag, you would not know who was who.
    Also, 70% of PAs are woomen, so both NPs and PAs are women dominated professions.
    Good work!!!!
    (check out the American College of

  2. I am a FNP and I see PAs and Physicians in an equal light. We all care for patients and each specialty has their strengths and weakness.

  3. The main difference between PA and NP comes in the specialty setting. For example you do not see NP in surgery because they do not have surgical training. Surgery is part of PA training. With respects to surgery and Rn can attend a first assist program, but again PA medical traning is far better than a first assist certificate. In addition you don’t see many NP’s in the ER again because there are alot of procedures that are not covered in their programs. Other wise the two are interchangeable.

  4. Nurse Practitioners are clinically experienced Registered Nurses. They apply to Graduate degree programs for advance training in a clinical specialty. After graduation the take a National Board to become Board certified in that specialty. They are Advance Practice Registered Nurse (ARNP) who practice independently. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) will shortly become the entry level degree for Advance Practice Registered Nurses.
    A Physician Assistant is an entry level health care work who has no clincal experience or very narrow exposure, i.e., lab tec, resp. tech, ect. They apply to a diploma, AS, BS or MPAS programs. After graduation they take a general examination to be certified. They can specialize but usually through off campus courses or CEUs. They work under the strict supervision of a physician.