Differences between a physician assistant, nurse practitioner and doctor

Local News

It’s a common practice when you make a medical appointment. You can either wait a while to see the doctor or get in with a physician assistant or nurse practitioner right away. 

So, do these people carry the same qualifications as an MD?

What’s the difference?

Medical professionals say when it comes to general care, they’re both extremely knowledgeable. In fact, the work of a PA or nurse practitioner serves an important purpose and could close a serious doctor care gap in southern Nevada.

“She just makes you feel very at ease,” said Beverley Mosser.

This valley couple stays happy and healthy.

“Checked our heart, our lungs, our ears, our mouth, our eyes,” said Larry Mosser.

“Your heart is amazing, I wish my heart would be as strong as yours,” said Physician Assistant Liza Bryant.

The Mosser’s keep their medical needs in check with Bryant.

“We fill that void with a shortage of doctors and I think more people are realizing that.”

The Mosser’s are just a few of millions who see PA’s and nurse practitioners for routine exams instead of a medical doctor.

“I think that more exposure to a PA or a nurse practitioner, we do just as much as a doctor does, maybe even more,” Bryant said.

She has dedicated decades to the field and truly enjoys her time with every single patient.

“I’ve got a lot of patients that just say ‘hey, thank you, I’ll come back and see you,'” Bryant said.

When most people make appointments at a family practice, they can see a physician assistant like Liza right away or wait weeks maybe months to see an MD.

“They can do a lot of just about all of what the doctors do,” said Dr. Troy Bertoli, MD. 

He says this option closes a crucial gap in care.

“The nurse practitioners and physician assistants can write prescriptions, they can initiate referrals, they can order tests,” Dr. Bertoli said.

A University of Nevada Reno study shows our state has the 48th lowest number of acting primary physicians across the U.S. That translates to about 62 doctors for every 100,000 people compared to a country-wide average of 82, not nearly enough for everyone.

Patients would be waiting months and months and months to see a physician. So, Bryant and Bertoli agree when someone scores a speedy appointment with a PA, it can solve a small problem right away.

“I think they should feel comfortable with it because usually those folks have other people to question and ask about,” Dr. Bertoli said.

Because in quite a few cases, the longer you wait, the worse a condition can become.

“You know that you’re going to be taken care of, if there’s something that needs to be taken care of because the PA will find it,” Larry Mosser said.

So, the Mossers say everyone should take advantage of this option.

“If it’s just something simple this is going to take away from the long wait of seeing the doctor,” Beverley Mosser said.

And take the first step to solve any kind of concern.

“Start with the PA and then do the general doctor and then do your specialist,” Larry Mosser said.

It is important to note; physician assistants are required to work with and consult with an MD within the same practice. 
In some states, nurse practitioners are also required to consult a physician, but in Nevada, they are authorized to practice independently. 

Physician assistants have to earn a bachelor’s degree in a science related field, then gain experience working in a healthcare setting. After that, they continue to a graduate level, physician assistant program. 

Nurse practitioners earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, work as a registered nurse for at least one to two years, then pursue a second, graduate degree in nursing before practicing.  

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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