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Understanding the different types of health care providers

pa vs np blog post

Understanding the different types of health care providers

Many people commonly talk about going to the doctor’s office or needing to see a doctor when they’re sick, but in truth, you don’t always get to see a doctor and that’s not a bad thing.

As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, in partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis, 7News Anchor Taylor Murray spoke with a physician and a nurse practitioner who break down the different types of providers.

If you’re feeling under the weather and decide it’s time to go to the doctor, there’s a chance you may not be seen by an MD like Dr. Steve Newman, a family medicine physician.


“A physician is more broadly trained and has a longer degree of education. A nurse practitioner or a PA is very well trained in the area of expertise that they’re trained in,” said Dr. Newman.

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants, also known as advanced practice clinicians or APC’s, can be found in hospitals and doctor offices across the country, seeing patients.

“We are basically healthcare professionals who receive advanced training in order to provide, treat, diagnose and manage a variety of different medical conditions that are in the acute care setting, primary care setting, and specialty fields,” said Kim Moran, a nurse practitioner with Bon Secours St. Francis.

APC’s are just as qualified to treat patients and many can even prescribe medications.

Some nurse practitioners work independently, others under supervision of a physician.

Physician assistants often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider.

The differences between a nurse practitioner and a physician assistant are subtle.

“The majority of the differences are really in the training that we receive for the nurse practitioner,” said Moran. “We are registered nurses and the majority of our training is more of a patient care approach that focuses more on education and preventative health. But, then the physician assistant, they are trained more on the medical diagnosis and the disease process.”

A doctor or an advanced practice clinician – no matter who you see: rest assured, they both can provide the care you need.

“They’re both healthcare professionals, but the knowledge base is just different,” Dr. Newman said.


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