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Is it true that schooling is shorter and salaries are better for physician assistants than RNs?

Friday March 28, 2014
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Question:

Dear Donna,

My daughter is starting nursing school. She was told to look into becoming a physician’s assistant instead of a RN. She was told the schooling was shorter and salaries were better. Do you know if this is true?

Wondering About PA vs. RN

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Wondering About PA vs. RN,

Physician assistant and registered nurse are two entirely different career paths. The PAs educational track is not shorter than a RNs. PAs generally need to complete a master's level program to be eligible to take the licensing exam. But it's important to note RNs and PAs do different things in the healthcare setting.

PAs are trained in the medical model and provide primary care services under the supervision of a physician. They may provide some direct care but do a lot of administrative things including writing prescriptions and orders under the physician’s supervision. RNs are trained in a more holistic patient-centric, total care model and have a much broader scope of practice as well as more diverse career opportunities across the healthcare spectrum. Plus, the profession of nursing has a large body of research and theory behind it.

Many people compare PAs with advanced practice nurses, such as nurse practitioners. NPs usually have a broader scope of practice and can operate independently in many states while
PAs cannot.

In terms of salaries, many RNs make about the same as PAs depending on where they work. But salary can never be the primary driving force in choosing a career. The work itself along with the current and future opportunities are what matter most.

Best wishes,
Donna


Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://www. Nurse.com/Events.