Knowing the Difference Between an APRN and a Physician: July 25, 2019

When you schedule a doctor’s appointment, there may be times you never see your physician.  “A nurse practitioner is a clinician who is practicing under the supervision and collaboration with a physician,” said Dr. Christina Cavanagh, a family medicine physician with Lee Health.

Whether it’s primary care or a medical specialty, nurse practitioners work with physicians and take appointments with patients.   “In working together in teams, nurse practitioners and physicians can improve access to care and make sure that you can get into your doctor’s office when you’re sick and need to be seen,” said Dr. Cavanaugh.

Nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat chronic illnesses, conduct physical exams, order testing, provide counseling, and write prescriptions.  “They may be gathering information to collaborate with their supervising doctor about the plan of care. Or they may be following up on how you’re doing after a procedure,” she said.

While both are medically trained,—physicians are required to undergo longer and more extensive training.  “Physicians receive their Bachelor’s Degree and then go on to medical school. Once they get their medical degree they go on to residency training for a minimum of three more years, so a total of 11 years of training and 15,000 clinical hours of experience in their chosen field to become board certified in their specialty,” Dr. Cavanaugh said.

Because the two positions work closely together--if a nurse practitioner thinks the patient would also benefit from seeing the physician—the doctor is available to help diagnose and treat the patient. Two medical professionals who work together to give the patient the best and most efficient care.