Your doctor has the flu, so who can you see when you’re feeling under the weather?

Doctor and patientEven doctors get sick now and then. Their medical degree doesn’t immunize them from germs. Nowadays, many healthcare facilities have other professionals you can see for many of your medical needs. These well-educated and trained healthcare professionals can take care of you when your doctor isn’t available – and even when he or she is.

Here, we take a closer look at physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

What is a physician assistant?
Time for a wellness checkup? Looking for a primary care provider to treat your chronic illness? A physician assistant (PA) can do those things—and more.

Don’t be fooled by their title: PAs aren’t assistants to a physician. These licensed medical experts can examine, diagnose and treat patients, as well as prescribe medicine. And while they collaborate with doctors, PAs can see patients on their own.

They see patients in medical offices, hospitals, outpatient centers and other settings. In some clinics, PAs are the primary care providers you might see on a regular basis. Some even specialize – for instance, in family medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics or surgery.

Their specific duties can depend on where they practice, their specialty, state laws and other factors. But in general, PAs can:

  • do physical exams
  • diagnose and treat diseases and injuries
  • order and interpret X-rays, bloodwork or other medical tests
  • create treatment plans
  • talk to you about ways to stay healthy or manage a chronic disease
  • assist in surgery

PAs have a solid medical education and experience. Their background typically includes a master’s degree, state licensing and extensive clinical training.

What is a nurse practitioner?
Doctors aren’t the only ones who can provide excellent primary care. In fact, at many medical offices, a nurse practitioner (NP) might be the one to take care of you. So you might want to know a little about NPs and what they can do for you.

For starters, NPs are highly trained and qualified health care providers. They’re registered nurses who have additional medical training and, for many, national certification, a master’s or a doctoral degree.

Many NPs provide primary and specialty care. Their specific duties can depend on where they practice, their specialty, state laws and other factors. They work in a variety of settings, such as clinics, hospitals, urgent care sites and nursing homes. Like doctors, they can diagnose and treat many illnesses and injuries. And they consult with doctors when needed.

For instance, an NP may:

  • perform your physical exam
  • diagnose and treat various health conditions like diabetes or an infection
  • perform and order tests
  • prescribe medicines
  • teach you to how to make healthy lifestyle choices to prevent or manage an illness

In fact, NPs tend to emphasize prevention, health education, and the overall well-being and health of their patients. That makes NPs excellent partners in your care.

Sources: American Academy of Physician Assistants; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Source: American Association of Nurse Practitioners; Bureau of Labor Statistics




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Gabriel Padilla