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Biology Grad debating on NP or PA


Ok so i recently just graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Biology. To be honest i really didn't enjoy it at all, in fact I hated it. Anatomy & Physio and Epidemiology were pretty cool. However Basic Biology and learning about the cellular process of things is really boring to me. So i gave up my dream of being a doctor. My goal was to become a healthcare provider, I wanted to provide the bulk of patient care and diagnose. My disappointment in my major sent me researching other careers and I suddenly developed an interest in Nursing approx one yr before i Graduated.

I didnt really understand the role of the nurse. I thought Nurses did what CNA's do and Doctors did what nurses do. I learned that nurses are very knowledgeable (from working with them), their the eyes of medicine and first ones on the scene. That type of experience is invaluable and it would make more sense to ask a nurse about your symptoms before a doctor. I always thought doctors provided most of the patient care. The only thing i don't like about nursing is the cleaning aspect of it, however ill get over it.

To test out my theory on Nursing, I decided to take a nursing class "Pathophysiology" and I loved it, it was also taught by a male NP. He was very knowledgeable and made the subject very interesting which i though was incredible coming from a science major. Are exams were NCLEX style and he focused a lot about common occurences/hallmarks of the diseases we were learning, aswell as throwing in his own experiences. Just hearing him mention the word "patient or simply talking about patients was enough for me" I felt like I had finally been given some food lol.

So I used by last year of school to fullfill all the pre-reqs for nursing school. Ive been heavily weighing my options since graduation and I often have alot of people telling me "you act more like a doctor or you shouldn't settle for Nursing" just based on my personality. I'm always confident and detailed when working in medical environments and people always say "You always act like you know what your doing". which puzzles me because shouldn't every professional be that way. You should be confident when explaining things and that helps the patient trust you more.

I know that i can accomplish anything i set my mind too but I want to enjoy the learning process this next time around. I like nursing more-so since its holistic and moving to other areas is pretty easy. You can go into a lot of different fields with nursing. Ive already been accepted into an Accelerated Nursing MSN program

So here is my question: Is Nursing, PA or MD taught at the cellular level like my bio degree or is it more like the pathophysiology class I took? Im pretty knowledgeable about each role and their limit. My question is mainly about the learning process and what each one focuses on.

Edited by Young Tangerine

anh06005, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in Cardiac, Home Health, Primary Care. Has 6 years experience.

PA would likely allow you to get into the role you crave more quickly as you would just need to make sure you've fulfilled the pre-reqs there and then you'd be in the program (of course pending acceptance). With NP's they do have some direct-entry programs so that's what you'd want to look for unless you plan on going back to get your RN and then BSN/MSN (there are waaaay too many routes to mention here to get to NP/MSN).

PA and NP do essentially the same thing. PA's are taught more the medical model (diagnosis, treatment of disease) while NP's are taught more with the nursing model (diagnosis and treatment of the WHOLE person). The end result is pretty dang similar though the LAWS regarding each can be a bit different depending on your state. See, PA's will ALWAYS be paired with a physicians to oversee their practice. PA's are under the Medical board of your state. NP's are INDEPENDENT in some states meaning they don't have a physician involved AT ALL in their practice. They can open their own clinics and practice much more as a MD would. Some states, though, require NP's to have a collaborative physician similar to a PA. In some states PA's and NP's also cannot prescribe controlled substances while some can only prescribe class V-III controlled substances (like mine). Others can prescribe anything.

It varies so much you need to look at pre-reqs for the programs you're considering as well as your state laws. Keep in mind laws regarding NPs and their practice are evolving while PAs will never have the chance for full independent practice.

Good luck in whatever you choose. There are also plenty of other threads about this if you use the search function

I appreciate @anh06005 your response. I'm quite familiar with each role and their limitations as far as scope. However you really didn't answer my main question. My question is about the learning processes. I really dont want to endure another program that focuses a majorly on the cellular level extensively. I want an experience similar to my patho class, Centered around disease process and patient care.

Thankyou for your response tho

Edited by Young Tangerine

anh06005, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in Cardiac, Home Health, Primary Care. Has 6 years experience.

Ah. I guess you did ask more of that huh? NP certainly doesn't go into the cellular level. I can't imagine PA going too much into it either considering how long the programs are! If you want the less science-y one it will likely be NP (but you will have to bear some research and nursing theory classes).

Maybe I got your REAL question that time?? Lol

Lol Thank-you. I didn't realize you were a NP. what do you mean by less science-y lol? Is nursing theory and research really that bad?

anh06005, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in Cardiac, Home Health, Primary Care. Has 6 years experience.

My main science classes I had as a grad student were advanced patho and advanced pharm. Other than that it's research, nursing theory, policy (which were boring to me...I like science). Then you get to your clinical classes where you go more into care for various disease processes and apply it in the clinical setting. Mine were divided into peds/women's health, adult 1 (more urgent care), adult 2 (more chronic diseases), and a practicum where I could see anything.

I haven't gone through PA school (of course) so I can't offer you much insight there. We do have a few PA's around these boards though.

From what I've read on threads comparing the two, PA is taught using the medical model and appears to teach more on a cellular level then NP.

You sound more like PA student in your post to me for some reason. What puts you off PA school?

@thenightnurse456 haha thats interesting just today a doctor was trying to convince me to go to PA school. Im curious to know how do i come off like a PA student? Is it my personality or approach.

I really want to get into the workforce sooner and PA in my opinion isnt very flexible. I have alot of different interests like for example traveling in and out of the country, missionary work, forensics etc. I also want to become a Neonatal and Family Nurse Practitioner. Like I mentioned before the experience nurses get is invaluable. However maybe my experience was warped due to my boring instructors. Ive looked at a few PA curriculum's and alot of the classes mirror my bio degree and that made me cringe. I like science but its going to have to be taught in a very interesting and engaging way or else it will be torture to me. I dont want to learn about RNA,DNA, nucleotides, ribosomes etc ill trade that for mono, HIV, Cancer, meningitis etc anyday..... The cellular level is just not intriguing to me

Edited by Young Tangerine

pa school is pretty hard to get into. 3.5+ gpa and 1-2 years of healthcare experience is the norm as an EMT, paramedic, cna, pct ect. anything involving direct patient care. Most schools require LOR's and some require the GRE. Some schools also have specific prereq courses that you would have to take that may not be included in a bio curriculum. You also usually apply a yr before your start date. Most PA programs are 27 months in length although it can vary between 24-36 months.

I'm not sure it's just a vibe I got. You seem more medical then nursing to me.

I'm a nurse who became more interested in the disease process, diagnosis etc. I wanted to become a NP but it takes too long in my country and the role is still so new here and complicated. So I have gone back to get my medical degree.

windsurfer8, BSN

Specializes in Psych/Military Nursing. Has 14 years experience.

Just a question..you say you are "always confident and detailed when working in medical environments"

What does this mean? Are you a licensed RN or physician? What medical licensure do you hold? What do you define as a "medical environment"? Why would a brand new biology grad be working in a "medical environment" unless I am missing something.

Be cautious of using statements like "you should be" one way or another. What works for one does not always work for another. Humility and courtesy will get you a long way.

windsurfer8 I'm not really sure why you would ask if i was a RN or Physician when i clearly stated that I was a recent bio grad, that's not even possible and not all jobs require a medical license. Reading will get you a long way aswell lol :)

I also feel as though you misinterpreted my comment about confidence. Regardless of the profession or situation you should always appear confident when relaying information. Being detailed also ensures their is no miscommunication or lack of understanding on the recipients end. People need to trust that you know what your doing.

Edited by Young Tangerine

thenightnurse456 haha that's interesting I always feel more medical. I guess it could have been my experience aswell. If PA school focuses more so on the disease process and patient care rather than basic biology or cellular processes I.E RNA, DNA, Nucleotides etc. I would consider it

Guys let me know if my question isn't clear enough. I already understand the route (requirements for programs) and scope of each profession, so theirs no need to mention it lol

my question is regarding the learning process. I'm not really interested in learning at the cellular level unless the information is presented in a more intriguing way, I however love learning about disease processes, diagnosing and patient care. That's essentially my biggest fear of PA school. I cant really determine at which level its taught from, it sounds very cellular but not too much in depth

HelloWish, ADN, BSN

Specializes in IMCU, Oncology. Has 3 years experience.

In nursing school you learn assessment, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and the nursing process and how to apply it critically. No, you don't really learn at the cellular level. That is done in A&P I & II as well as Microbiology. I am guessing you would learn more at the cellular level with medical models of practice such as PA or MD. Once you get to NP school, there is more advanced assessment, pathophysiology and pharmacology...I haven't gotten there yet but there may be deeper learning at the cellular level...I don't know.

You can go to your local book store and pick up a fundamentals of nursing or nursing medical surgical nursing book and get an idea of what you will be learning in nursing school. As far as NP school is concerned, it is more advanced learning but I am sure you could find a few books to see what the learning process is like.

NurseGirl525, ASN, RN

Specializes in ICU.

First of all, you got a biology degree. Studying life at the cellular level would basically be what a bio major should expect to study. You need a complete understanding of it do pretty much anything in the medical field.

We do study it in nursing also. I know all about DNA, RNA, transcription and transduction. We have gone into osmosis regularly. You need to understand what kind of solutions you are giving like isotonic and hypertonic and what is going on with the person so you don't kill them with the wrong med. Understanding how bacteria and microbes are structured and how different antibiotics affect these bacteria is also important. Biology is the foundation of all things medical.

But, now that you have that degree, you will go into patho whether it's nursing, PA, or doctor. If you want to treat and diagnose disease, go to med school. If you want to treat how the person responds to that disease, become a nurse. But you are never going to get away from biology. Not in either field. But now that you have already taken those classes you will get into the "medical" classes. In either field. If you truly hate biology, look into another field.

anh06005, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in Cardiac, Home Health, Primary Care. Has 6 years experience.

Guys let me know if my question isn't clear enough. I already understand the route (requirements for programs) and scope of each profession, so theirs no need to mention it lol

my question is regarding the learning process. I'm not really interested in learning at the cellular level unless the information is presented in a more intriguing way, I however love learning about disease processes, diagnosing and patient care. That's essentially my biggest fear of PA school. I cant really determine at which level its taught from, it sounds very cellular but not too much in depth

I would ask around on some PA message boards also as MOST of us have gone nursing so we don't know much about PA school. You also mention you don't mind getting into more detail if it's presented in a more intriguing way....well that all depends on the instructor so we cannot really comment on that. Each PA or NP program is a bit different and some may go a bit more in depth so it's difficult for any of us to tell you "this is how it is" because it varies by program and instructor.

Your BEST bet is to find a few programs you're interested in (PA and NP) and find students who have went to those programs.


Specializes in Oncology.

I actually got my BSN and just passed my NCLEX. I plan to work for a good 5 years before I decide where I want to take my career. I plan to shadow some CRNAs before I see whether I like anesthesia or not. However, I don't want to consider NP school. I'm actually the opposite of you. I'm a nurse that entertains the idea of going to PA school. My reasons are as follows.

As one of the commentators above stated, to treat disease, you need to have a good understanding of biological processes. The more in depth you can understand it, the better provider you will be; IF you sincerely care about your patient. I feel that PA and CRNA schools understand this and implement it into their curriculum. More over, their curriculum are MUCH more standardized in this country than NP schools. With every NP school, there was ALWAYS something different when I researched into them. Furthermore, I don't like how they don't focus very much on the sciences as they do on the theory of nursing and clinical leadership. As for flexibility, PA school would offer you more flexibility. NP schools force you to specialize to one specific patient cohort, and specifically in primary care. Any NP that you see in hospitals without training in a formal ACNP program that covers tertiary care are really stretching their scope of practice. PAs on the other hand can work in almost any field of medicine, their scope of practice is whatever their supervising physician practices in. I love the fact that I can go from ER, to ICU, to Surgery, to OB/GYN, to Pediatrics, AND primary care later in my life when I plan to slow down. A nurse practitioner would need the corresponding licesure to do this be it FNP, PNP, WHNP, or ACNP.

As for the whole "supervision for PAs" thing and "Collaboration for NPs," For a PA, it means they know where their limits lie and they understand when they need to refer their patient to their supervising physician. NPs do the exact same thing when they're in over their heads. As you gain more experience in either role, this will occur less often and you will gain autonomy. I just don't like how NPs say they are fully independent when they DO in fact have supervising (Collaborating) physicians. I feel respect for both professions, as both play a vital role in health care today, however these are the things I understand now that I went through nursing school.