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Anything you can do I can do better

Adventist Health

No you can't! That's what nurse practitioners are saying to doctors. That's because nurse practitioners and doctors can provide nearly all the same medical care procedures and offerings, from treating broken bones to prescribing medications.

It's valuable for people to know the differences between physicians, nurse practitioners and other medical care experts and the services they offer.

Getting to know your team of medical care providers

Physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and registered nurses each play an important role in your overall health and wellness, whether it's for regular medical check-ups with your primary care provider or during your stay at a hospital. Though they have different degrees of experience and education, as a team they work together to keep you healthy, prevent chronic diseases and provide well-rounded medical care.

Physicians study diseases and can prescribe medicine, treatment and even surgery when necessary. Of the four types of providers listed above, they have the most education and experience, allowing them to provide care and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions, including managing complicated chronic illnesses.

Nurse practitioners (NPs), similar to physicians, can complete physical exams, treat broken bones, order and interpret lab testing, prescribe medicine and refer patients to specialists. They can do nearly all the things doctors can, but their care tends to focus more on general patient wellness and treatment than on studying diseases. Nurse practitioners have more clinical training and a higher advanced degree than registered nurses, allowing them to provide comprehensive care. You're most likely to see an NP in a primary care or urgent care clinic.

Physician Assistants (PAs) work under supervision from a licensed physician. They have training and clinical experience in primary care and they're required to pass a national certification exam. PAs are typically found in specialty care or surgical clinics.

Registered Nurses (RNs), similar to NPs, focus on acute conditions and treatment, but don't have the level of education and training as nurse practitioners. RNs tend to work in a hospital setting, while NPs are more likely to work in a private practice or at a clinic and have their own patients.

Partnering with a physician or a nurse practitioner for primary care

There are significant health benefits for patients who have a primary care provider, whether it's a doctor or a nurse practitioner. The main reason to find a primary care provider is that they have more time to review patient history to diagnose underlying conditions or chronic diseases that may be affecting health.

Doctors and nurse practitioners are a good option, but if you're searching for a primary care provider, consider scheduling an appointment with an NP as you sift through provider names and specialties based on the care you need. Many people are surprised to learn that NPs provide 85 percent of the same treatments as doctors and they are valuable members of your overall team of health care providers.

Nurse practitioners offer a whole-person approach to medical care

Hien Bowden, NP mushroom hunting

Hien Bowden, NP and her husband mushroom hunting with Daniel Ananyev, DO.

A smaller patient load often gives NPs the ability to offer a whole-person approach to medical care, spending more time with each patient to address overall health and wellness.

"Nurse practitioners can take a comprehensive approach to healthcare," says Hien Bowden, a family nurse practitioner at Adventist Health Medical Group's Hoodland Clinic in Welches, Ore. "Being able to spend more time with my patients allows me to focus on improving their overall health and preventing chronic disease by getting to the root of problems, rather than focusing only on the visible symptoms."

Addressing underlying medial conditions is tremendously valuable. Mental, emotional, social and environmental health all contribute to overall health and wellness. Spending time listening to patients and getting to know their medical history helps physicians and nurse practitioners identify changes in health that may serve as warning signs for chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The key benefits of having a primary care provider

  • Chronic disease prevention
  • Whole-person approach to medical care
  • Improved patient education
  • Increased patient satisfaction
  • Improved provider access
  • Ability to prescribe medications and treatments
  • Lower overall costs for patients