What are Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners?
Posted by Fran Dubsky

We have all been treated from time to time by physicians, so we know what their role is in health care. However, many of us have not been treated by Physician Assistants or Nurse Practitioners, so it may be instructive to learn what the role of each of them is in the health care arena.



Physicians Assistants (PA’s) – PA’s practice medicine under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. They have formal training that enables them to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services, as delegated to them by a physician. They also treat minor injuries and utilize sutures, splinting and casting and they can prescribe certain medicines. The specific duties of a PA is determined by the supervising physician and by applicable State laws where they practice. (They should not be confused with Medical Assistants who perform routine clinical and clerical tasks in the doctor’s office.)

The educational program for a PA usually takes 2 years and most already have a college degree and some health related work experience such as nursing, paramedical, etc. All States have legislation governing the practice of a PA and all PA’s must pass the Physician Assistants Certifying Examination. To maintain certification, PA’s must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every 2 years and every 6 years they must pass a recertification examination or complete an alternative program that combines learning experiences and take-home examinations. They are usually the first line providers of medical care in the physician’s offices, taking medical histories and examining and treating patients for more common medical conditions. 

Many PA’s in dermatologists’ offices have advanced and specialized training in dermatology and the treatment of hair disorders. For individuals suffering from hereditary hair loss, the PA is a natural health care provider to consult. They are knowledgeable about hereditary hair loss and can recommend and/or prescribe numerous products, including the HairMax LaserComb®.

Nurse Practitioners (NP’s) – NP’s are registered nurses who have completed advanced education (a minimum of a master’s degree) and training in the diagnosis and management of common medical conditions, including chronic conditions. They provide some of the same care provided by a physician and work closely with physicians they work with. They can however, set up their own practices and serve as a patient’s regular health care provider. They can prescribe certain drugs and perform diagnostic studies. They are also state regulated, practice in all states, and their services are often covered by insurance providers. Many nurses specialize in specific fields of medical care, but most often function as primary providers of wellness and preventive care. 

When a registered nurse wishes to become an NP, the candidate must complete a state-approved advanced training program that usually specializes in such fields as family practice, internal medicine, or women’s health. Once training is completed, the candidate must be licensed by the state they wish to practice in and all states require some form of re-licensing.

The NP can also provide excellent treatment of disorders of the hair, particularly those that afflict females and they can recommend/prescribe numerous products including the HairMax LaserComb.

In conclusion, the PA’s and NP’s can provide excellent and cost effective care, since they are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of many common diseases including those involving hair loss. So, if you are examined and treated by one of these providers for any medical condition and you also have hair loss, don’t hesitate to also ask them how you can treat that, too. They will have some excellent answers and treatment options for you to consider. 


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