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NPs & PAs



Information about Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants


Physician Assistants (PA) and Nurse Practitioners (NP) are skilled members of a health care team. They are mid-level practitioners. As professionals, they are licensed by the state and able to perform many functions done by physicians. They can provide a broad range of services which can include seeing someone to evaluate them for an illness, taking a history and physical, ordering tests, discussing the diagnosis and initiating treatment in a manner dictated by the doctors with whom they are working. They may at times perform minor procedures such as suturing. Most of the time, for many routine problems, a PA or NP can evaluate and initiate your treatment. If there are any concerns, they may ask the doctor to re-check something that has been discovered or evaluate you and see you on that visit. Whether or not the physician sees you on that visit, they are aware of your treatment since all of the care provided by the Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant in this office is reviewed by the physician. If, on occasion, the doctor wishes to change your treatment, you would be called and told of any new recommendations.

Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants are not doctors. They are medical professionals licensed to work under a doctor's supervision. Supervision does not mean the doctor must see all of the patients too, it simply means that the physician is available for consultation if needed and accepts the responsibility for all the work the PA or NP does. Both have extensive training in programs located at medical schools, schools of allied health, universities or teaching hospitals.


Why does the office use Mid-Level Practitioners?

The use of Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners is for the benefit of both the patients and the physicians and staff in this office. Having a PA or NP with the doctor in the office at all times allows for more efficient patient care. This means a patient may be able to get an appointment to be seen on relatively short notice, rather than having to be scheduled many days in advance. The more routine visits can be easily handled by the Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant allowing the doctor to spend more time with patients, helping the schedule to flow better and decreasing waiting time. The extra medical staff allows for the extra hours (evenings and weekends) without over extending the physicians' time. The NP or PA is also able to answer most questions regarding a patient's illness and medications and may help to return phone calls and renew prescriptions.


Can a PA or NP write a prescription?

Yes, Mid-Level Practitioners are able to write and sign prescriptions for a majority of medications. They are not able to sign prescriptions for controlled substances such as narcotic pain medications, tranquilizers or sleeping pills. Prescriptions for these must still be signed by the physician. Both PAs and NPs must pass a national certifying examination to practice in Virginia in addition to graduating from nationally approved training programs. A great deal of this training involves pharmacology and drug treatment. In addition, the medications prescribed by the NP/PA are dictated by the practice preference of the physician with whom they are working. In other words, you will usually get the same medication or prescription whether you see the doctor or the mid-level practitioner.


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Last modified: April 04, 2004