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A Crucial Link in the Chain of Care

Recognizing Advanced Practice Provider Week

David Curry, NP

At CVPH, teamwork is a hallmark of providing the care our patients need every single day. Nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) are a crucial link in that chain of care. As a NP, I’m proud to be a part of the team that helps our patients achieve successful outcomes, and I want to share what this role looks like with you.

Education and training prepare nurse practitioners and physician assistants to do many of the common health tasks that physicians do, including (but not limited to):

  • Order and interpret tests
  • Prescribe medications
  • Help patients understand their illness and treatments

While we do many of the things that physicians do, that does not mean we work alone. As mentioned earlier, providing high quality care is a team effort. That is why we work so closely with physicians and nurses, regardless of specialty, to improve the lives of our patients. Collaboration, building bridges, embracing change and speaking up are all critical pieces of our day-to-day work.

While we are known as nurse practitioners or physician assistants, those are the easy names! Our titles can be as diverse as the work we do. Every state licenses NPs and PAs separately and determines what their title will be. In some states, NPs are called Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs) or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), since all are Registered Nurses before earning their Masters or Doctorate to become NPs. Physician assistants may be required to use the title Registered Physician Assistant-Certified (RPA-C), depending on the state in which they practice.  This title shows he or she successfully passed the national certification examination. While a PA may start out as a nurse, most do not. This is one of the differences in a physician assistant’s education and training.

Because I was a nurse first, I could choose which path to head down.  The NP required earning a master’s degree; while the PA would have been another bachelor’s degree program (I already had a bachelor’s degree in nursing). In the end I chose to become a nurse practitioner because in Florida, where I planned to work, a PA required “direct supervision” by a physician. That meant the physician had to be in the building when I worked. As a NP, I could practice independently, with phone consultations as needed. Just like the title of an NP or PA, supervision requirements and the authority to prescribe medication can vary significantly by state.

Throughout my career, I’ve had the pleasure of helping many patients by regulating their medications, doing cardiac stress tests and medical admission history and physicals for psychiatric patients, suturing many wounds in the emergency room, ordering and interpreting x-rays and, most recently, caring for chronic wounds while working at the CVPH Wound Center.

However, I’m most satisfied by the other half of my career.  Because I earned a Master’s Degree in Nursing, I was able to teach at the college level and did so for 25 years at SUNY Plattsburgh.  This mixing of my NP practice and nursing education gave me a work/life balance that fulfilled all my ambitions.

As Advanced Practice Providers (APPs), we never stop learning and we collaborate with each other to provide high quality care. As a patient of a NP or PA, you can rest assured that as a part of your care team, they’ll do their part in helping you achieve a successful outcome. If you are interested in becoming a NP or PA, know that they’re well educated and ready to provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about your career. Either way, don’t be shy about asking us questions. We are all happy to fill in the blanks.