5 Things to Know about Advanced Practice Providers

Careers in healthcare have increased and diversified as the medical field works to meet the needs of patients, hospitals and physicians. Read on to learn more about Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) and physician assistants (PAs), their training and expertise.

What are they? 
APRNs , otherwise known as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists or nurse anesthetists, are registered nurses who go on to earn a masters or doctorate degree in a specialty area of nursing and must complete residency experience. PAs take a more generalized exam and complete a residency upon completing a masters degree.

What they can do. 
Depending upon state regulations, both APRNs and PAs can prescribe medicine in all 50 states, though there may be some restrictions on controlled medications. CRNAs may also have more restrictions.  APRNs  can work independently from physicians, though many are overseen by doctors.  PAs require the oversight of physicians.

What not to do. 
PAs and NPS go through intensive schooling and training to do what they do, so make sure that you respect their position and time. APRNs and PAs  are not an extension of a physician; they typically have their own patients. Most of the time they are not there to provide more face time when the doctor is not available, so make sure that you are seeing the correct person when you have questions. Don't ask, "When are you going to be a doctor?" APRNs  and PAs are not doctors in training but have chosen a different career path.

Specialist versus generalist. 

PAs are trained as generalists while APRNs  typically specialize in a certain area, such as pediatrics. Both PAs  and APRNs can switch areas with appropriate training, however, certain specialties require APRNs to obtain a new certification to practice.

Basic services similar to a physician. 

No matter whom you decide to see, know that all have undergone extensive training and education, though to varying degrees. APRNs,  PAs, and physicians can all complete physical exams, write prescriptions, deliver babies, order tests and more. 

Read more about advanced practice providers at The Christ Hospital Health Network and check out a complete list.

​Christine graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Science degree and later completed her Masters in Nursing at Northern Kentucky University, becoming an Advanced Practice RN.  She is now the Director of Advanced Practice Providers at The Christ Hospital and is also on the clinical teaching faculty for the Northern Kentucky University’s Nurse Practitioner Program.