NP or PA school?

Nurses Career Support


No wonder so many PA's & MD's tell me to run from nursing ASAP! With all the in-fighting in this profession, no wonder people predict the demise of nursing - giving way to RT's, Paramedics, MA and CNA / Techs.

As a new grad, I've always known I would continue my education to that of a mid-level practioner. All of my professors told me to go to NP school, after all - "I'm a nurse". Every PA says to forget nursing and go to PA school - although they never say exactly WHY to leave nursing. they know something we don't?

So here's my question to you all: Should a young RN (age 27) work on getting into NP school or forget nursing and become a phsyician assistant and incorporate the positive aspects of nursing into his practice?

Any suggestions? Any comments?

I was talking with a PA the other day and she made an important point on this very topic. She stated atleast we RNs could be in independent practice and had a wide variety of career options...

If I were wanting to be a mid-level (and I flirted with it) I would consider both options very carefully. In our state, we happen to have a PA program that has survived even as our NP programs have come and gone and returned, so it has longevity, so I would more than regard application to that PA program as an option. If you look around, you will find some PA's that were RN's first. Talk to them.

First of all, I believe that we are "the sum total of all of our experiences," so I do not believe that acceptance to a PA school would mean that you would have a tabula rasa experience with your nursing knowledge.

I perceive that PA's are educated along the medical model and that the goal is to train you to think in the medical model and be like a doctor in your thinking. ANP's obviously have to come to do some of the same thinking, but you are still dually looking at your clients as a person with an advanced nursing problem. All the PA's I know do include patient ed etc in their approach, but nurses, because of our experience tend to be more tuned in and answerable to the problems that the client faces on a day to day basis in coping with their health problem.

I personally would be making this decision based on the individual strengths of the programs themselves. A friend of mine who went MSN-FNP was attracted to the idea that should would get a MSN, while going through the respected PA program would grant her "another" BS. I am also struck by the number of nurse practitioners I know who don't stay with the junior doc role for a long time and find themselves in other advanced practice roles. This might be a vote for the MSN since it will give you more growth potential.

I really do not believe that their is a right or wrong answer here. Look at the programs and their strengths and look at your personal long and short term goals.

Hey, KW --

Let me log in on the side of your professor, but for some other reasons:

*Education should OPEN doors for you, not close them. An MSN (with or without the NP) will do that, I assure you.

*Options Increase with an MSN -- at 27 it may not matter, but at 47 you may want to teach (MSN required)or consult (MSN prerequisite) or get a PhD (or DNSc, or JD, or something) and your MSN can launch that, another BS won't.

*Independence and Autonomy are probably things you are seeking in nursing, while they are not always easy to achieve, the PA is NOT (under current medical statute) much of a route to such pursuits.

*Personal Growth -- education is good in an of itself, whether it gets you to a specific credential, a goal, a job, or just increases your self-awareness, independence, breadth of thought and network of other thoughtful people.

Have a great life and practice, and let us know what you decide to do.

From an MSN, and PhD who's been there.

I originally got my BSN so that I would have greater opportunites within the field of nursing. One of those opportunites was to become a NP, which I am currently working on. I too liked the idea that for the extra work I was putting in I would be rewarded with my MSN. NPs have a much more rounded education than the PA. I believe that many more doors will open for you. Just think where you may be at age 40. I currently work with PAs and PA students, and I'd take a nurse anyday! Check out the programs though, in the end you'll make the best decision for you. After all we as nurses are GREAT decision makers.

Greetings, KW!

My guess as to why you've been told to forget NP and go to PA school may very well be 'cause you're a guy. Hey, it happens.

I agree entirely with Pathfinder and would add to that advice: GET EXPERIENCE!!!

and get the experience in a variety of settings with a multitude of people.

Good luck!!

This is an excellent topic. I have worked with PA's that were wonderful. I have also went "up the ranks" from an LPN to MSN, to a clinical specialist. I believe it depends on the state where you want to practice, some recognize PA's very well in ER's and clinics. But, on the other hand, I have seen MSN prepared nurses become drug sales reps, teachers, Nurse Practitioners, QA Managers, DON's, Managers, Casemanagers, and the list goes on and on. Can PA's do all that - I don't think so. We have a broader opportunity to practice with an advanced degree than they do. I believe, if I was going to do any additional "schooling" it would be in budgeting, finance or that direction. We have to do so much with budgets at our level, it would be helpful to have some background in this area. One thing I do like about the PAs that would do well to be incorporated in our training is how to think "like a doctor". Men would do well as a PA, other doctor's respect them more than female nurses. Sorry, but Good luck.

[This message has been edited by NurseRachet (edited April 06, 2000).]

Specializes in Hospice and palliative care.


I agree with the other respondents that overall, an MSN is the better choice b/c of the opportunities that become available to one with this credential. One other factor that you should consider is that, in most cases, you can work part-time while pursuing an MSN. Many PA programs (at least in my my area) require that you attend school full-time. For someone who is single or divorced, quitting a full-time job is not an option. Regardless of which option you choose, I wish you the best of luck! smile.gif

Laurie, RN

How about the pro's and con's of becoming a NP -vs- a Clinical Nurse Specialist.....

Are there any Clinical Nurse Specialist on this list? I'de love to hear about what you do. Is one more marketable over the other?


+ Add a Comment