DPN/Nurse Practitioner vs. PA/Physician's Assistant

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    I've been getting conflicting information from advisors on the difference between being a DPN/Nurse Practitioner vs. being a PA. I've been told the only difference is PAs are trained in the medical school, while DPN/NPs are trained in the nursing school. That they essentially do the same job, but PAs can prescribe a greater variety & type of medications. I'm trying to decide which career path I'd like to take after completing my BSN.

    I'd love to hear some feedback from those of you actually pursuing these fields. What made you decide to choose DPN/NP over being a PA (or vice-versa)? How do you think job prospects differ between the two? Did driving distance to your school affect your decision? How long did you work as a BSN before pursuing post-graduate studies?

    Thanks in advance for your advice!
    Joe V likes this.
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  3. 11 Comments so far...

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    I will be in the same boat. Im currently in RN school then will proceed to finish my BSN. From what I can tell from my PA friend, I cant see the point in going to several years of extra school when a 2 year program will give me a PA.
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    I'm pretty sure PA's have to practice under a physician while NP's can practice on their own. In most states, I believe NP's can prescribe narcotics while PA's cannot.
    SoFloRN likes this.
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    One thing to remember is that PA's are trained to be a generalist whereas a NP is trained to be more of a specialist. In order for an NP to switch to a different career area, the NP must take additional coursework. The PA may not have to, though a residency in a given field would improve skills and knowledge in that area.

    Now it IS possible for a NP to also train as a PA. For example, at UC Davis, their NP and PA programs are combined and if the NP wants to also become a PA, the student takes the courses that the PA student also takes.
    SopranoKris likes this.
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    Quote from smoup
    I'm pretty sure PA's have to practice under a physician while NP's can practice on their own. In most states, I believe NP's can prescribe narcotics while PA's cannot.
    In my area, it states that PAs can prescribe narcotics and NPs cannot. I guess it's a regional rule???

    Talked to a DO yesterday and he said to definitely go the PA route, instead of NP. I'm still weighing my decisions. There are 5 PA programs in this area. The closest one is a 55 minute drive. There are 2 NP programs, both 5 minutes from the house. It's a tough call. I like the idea of being a PA, but driving that far on an old, used car has me worried. Can't afford a new car until I'm done with school! However, if what the DO said is true, NPs don't get hired as easy in this area as PAs. AARRGGHH! Decisions, decisions...

    Well, at least I have some time to really contemplate it and weigh all the differences between programs and see what I really want to do.

    Thank you for your feedback!
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    Quote from SopranoKris
    I've been getting conflicting information from advisors on the difference between being a DPN/Nurse Practitioner vs. being a PA. I've been told the only difference is PAs are trained in the medical school, while DPN/NPs are trained in the nursing school. That they essentially do the same job, but PAs can prescribe a greater variety & type of medications. I'm trying to decide which career path I'd like to take after completing my BSN.I'd love to hear some feedback from those of you actually pursuing these fields. What made you decide to choose DPN/NP over being a PA (or vice-versa)? How do you think job prospects differ between the two? Did driving distance to your school affect your decision? How long did you work as a BSN before pursuing post-graduate studies?Thanks in advance for your advice!
    I would recommend NP very strongly, they are much more independent in practice. Also, a physician would probably recommend a PA because they have direct control over them. They both do the same thing, except PAs are dependent completely on physicians. Nurses are self regulating and are not controlled directly by physicians.
    myelin and SopranoKris like this.
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    I think you have to keep in mind where you want to practice and the laws in that state. For instance, PAs were given prescriptive authority in IN in 2008, while NPs had prescriptive authority here for years. Plus our state schools are just now starting PA programs while they've had NP programs for years. The majority of the local docs in my area prefer NPs while the CT surgeons prefer PAs. I had considered becoming a PA when I started nursing school my kids' pediatrician and others told me my job prospects would be slim if I chose to stay in this area.
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    To consider:

    PAs aren't allowed with Doctors without Borders, if you're interested in missionary work, but NPs are. Many countries do not recognize PAs.
    If you want to do peds/NICU, PA school is more generalized towards adults and IMO better to get PNP/NNP.
    PAs legally must practice with a doctor overhead, NPs don't depending on the state

    PAs follow the medical model, which appeals to many
    PAs can work with surgeons and do procedures, while NPs typically cannot.
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    To put it bluntly, if I wanted inpatient (surgical or EM), I would go with PA. For primary care, psych, ob/gyn, go with NP. If you're concerned about opening your own practice, working abroad, or conducting research/teaching/management/policy during your career, then that would also tip the vote in favor of NP, IMO. If you're unsure about your specialty, than you might want to go with PA, since you can more easily change specialties. There are pluses and minuses to both careers.
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    Some hospitals will employ acute care/critical care NP's for surgery - I saw listings on the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital for a few.


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