The Difference Between Advanced Practice Providers and Doctors

BIG NEWS (not really): Advanced practice providers are changing access to healthcare. Maybe it’s because of medical school expenses, politics, health insurance, whatever. The bottom line is it’s different than it was 50 years ago. They function as “physician extenders” (not a loved term amongst these providers, but it illustrates my point). It includes Nurse Practitioners (NP) and Physician’s Assistants (PA).

I’m an NP, so that’s what I know, but a PA practices very similarly, if not identically. An NP is a registered nurse who completed a graduate program in a particular specialty area. That means NPs have a four-year nursing degree, followed by a 2-year master’s degree. Many NPs even have a doctorate degree, which adds one to two years of school.

The History:

NPs have been taking care of patients since the early nineteenth century. They visited patients at home, and treated simple complaints and emergencies. The modern-day NP as we know it, appeared in 1965 when a registered nurse and physician created the first pediatric nurse practitioner program.

As more and more people gained medical access because of nurse practitioners, support, and criticism, grew. As with most politics, the criticism typically stemmed from money, and who got paid.  In 1986, The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations said nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants provided “care whose quality is equivalent to that of care provided by physicians.”

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine released the “Future of Nursing” report. It said NPs should practice to the full extent of their education and training. Basically, some states were restricting NPs and some weren’t, and that wasn’t jiving well. It also recommended NPs be full partners with physicians in redesigning healthcare. That sounds simple, but the words “full partners” really freaked some people out. Ideally, in my honest opinion, NPs/PAs and physicians have different skill sets that complement each other when they work together.

The Nuts and Bolts:

So, enough about the background, what does an NP do?

The Virginia Department of Health Professions defines a nurse practitioner as an advanced practice registered nurse who is jointly licensed by the boards of nursing and medicine, and practices as part of a patient care team in collaboration with a physician.

Super, but what does that mean?

For KidMed’s purposes, that means advanced practice providers and physicians work together to take care of patients. Our practice agreement requires review of patient charts in the electronic medical record, and physician input for complex patients, emergencies, and referrals. Basically, our advanced practice providers and physicians have the same scope of practice and prescribing capabilities. But, the physician provides extra knowledge and expertise for any patient who is particularly difficult to manage. That’s the KidMed difference: we all use our specific skills to provide the best possible care for your kids.

Another fun fact for you: Virginia law does not require a physician to be in-house for advanced practice providers to see patients. However, the KidMed team physicians are easily accessible when questions arise. We also have a great relationship with area specialists. So, not only can our advanced practice providers talk to our own doctors, but we also have access to the big guns!

KidMed is not your typical urgent care clinic that says they can take care of your kids. We genuinely love caring for children and their specific needs. We have extensive pediatric training, and (although I’m sure I’m biased), have the best of the best advanced practice providers for your family.


pediatric advanced practice providers

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  1. We value the nursing approach to our family’s healthcare. Our family has greatly benefitted from the care model and advocacy of nursing practice as well as the technical advances and methodology of medical practice. We embrace both models of care and appreciate that KidMed uses NPs and MDs in their practice. Our family’s pediatrician group uses the same model and all their patients reap the benefits! Our pediatrician is a strong advocate for the KidMed speciality of urgent and after-hours care and has always encouraged us to seek KidMed services for xray, lab, accidents and urgent care needs.
    P.S. Our family and especially our A.J. think that Ms. Emily, the NP who authored the article, is “the bestest ever!” in providing quality health care and medical resources!


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