Advances in Healthcare

PA, NP, MD? Decoding Acronyms of Your Medical Care Providers


Decoding acronyms of your medical care providers and understanding what they mean in terms of your care. 

group of medical professional

The world of healthcare is constantly evolving, and part of change involves an often confusing alphabet soup of who’s who and who does what. It’s not unusual to go to a Roper St. Francis Express Care or make an appointment with your physician (i.e. your MD or DO of choice) and be seen by a PA – otherwise known as a Physician’s Assistant, or a NP — a Nurse Practitioner — both of whom are also sometimes simply referred to as “advanced practitioner” or “mid-level provider.” To help us decode the acronyms and understand how these professionals work, we asked some Roper St. Francis advanced practitioners to explain the “who, what, why” behind this national trend.

What is a PA?

According to the American Academy of PA’s (AAPA) a PA is a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional. PAs practice medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers, and they practice and prescribe medication in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and the uniformed services.

What is a NP?

According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), an NP blends clinical expertise in diagnosing and treating health conditions with an added emphasis on disease prevention and health management. All NPs must complete a master’s or doctoral degree program, and have advanced clinical training beyond their initial professional registered nurse preparation.

What Role Do They Play?

In recent years advanced practitioners have become an increasing necessity as well as a standard in managing demands on physicians’ time. Charleston’s population is growing at an unprecedented pace, and it is challenging for doctors alone to accommodate the volume of patients and deliver excellent healthcare in a timely fashion. Many physicians are partnering with advanced practitioners to build care teams to improve access and care for patients. This may include care on a routine basis with an advanced practitioner, or allow a patient the capability to schedule an emergent or urgent visit in the office when a physician is unavailable or has a schedule that is fully booked.

The role of advanced practitioners often includes, but is not limited to:

  • Independent office-based patient visits that may include initial patient visit with the practice, routine follow-up office visits, and post-operative/surgical procedure office visits
  • Surgical first assistant duties in the operating room
  • Routine evaluation of post-operative patients in hospital
  • Emergency room patient evaluations and development of necessary treatment plans
  • In-hospital patient consultations
  • In-hospital patient follow-up visits
  • Prescribing medications
  • Wound care
  • Minor procedures/administration of injections
  • Ordering/review of radiographic imaging studies
  • Fracture care including splint/cast application and reduction of fracture dislocations
  • 24-hour, on-call duties when required
  • Providing assistance to medical assistants, nurses, and office staff with required clerical duties including returning patient phone calls, posting of surgical cases, disability paperwork, schedule management, liaison between physicians and hospital staff, and new employee training
  • Provide input to improve practice needs, access, and overall quality of care

Advanced practitioners are trained in multiple specialties across the board. Based on the specialty and their type of practice a mid-level provider often engages in routine discussion regarding patient care and treatment plans with a specialized physician. While the education and training of a physician is unparalleled, advanced practitioners bring passion and proven skills to giving patients the excellent care and compassion they deserve.

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