Nurse vs. Physicians Assistant: What is the difference?

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Difference between Nurse and Physicians Assistant

A nurse works in the field of health care. They work as a team with other individuals who are in the health care field in order to provide individuals with medical treatment. The role of a nurse is a job that is primarily taken up by women, but men do pursue this career option as well. A physician's assistant is also in the field of health care. This individual is allowed to perform some of the same procedures that doctors are able to perform. Physician's assistants are required to go to school a little bit longer than a nurse has to in order to be able to perform all of the duties required of them.

Physicians Assistant


The job of a physician's assistant was first established in the middle of the 1960s. The job was established in order to accommodate for the small amount of doctors that existed throughout the United States. Nurses are considered to be by some as one of the oldest professions that there is. The origins of this job title go back to caring for children and babies. This means that any woman who became a mother was also considered to be a nurse.


Individuals interested in becoming a nurse can either go to school to become a LPN or a RN both of which require one to attend school for a certain amount of time. In order to pursue a career in nursing individuals would have to get accepted into a nursing program, which is usually a two year program. In order to become a physician's assistant an individual will have to undergo training for two to three years. More time in school is necessary for individuals who want to be a physician's assistant because they are able to perform more duties than a nurse is allowed to do.

Job Duties

One of the main duties of a nurse is to interact with patients. Doctors will give specific instructions to follow in regard to treating their patients that the nurse has to carry out. A nurse is not able to actually diagnose an individual, but they are allowed to give them medication that the doctor has prescribed for them and they can start IVs if needed. A physician's assistant has a lot of duties that they are able to perform one of which is providing patients with a diagnosis, which is something that nurses cannot do. They are also able to assist with surgeries, perform physical exams, and write prescriptions.

Similarities and Differences


  • A nurse’s job is more hands on and deals more directly with the patient than a physician's assistant does. 
  • The job of a nurse is to take care of patients in the manner that their doctor has requested.
  • Nurses cannot diagnose or write out prescriptions for individuals, but they can give out medication that has been prescribed for them.

Physicians Assistant

  • Physicians assistant provide help for the doctor by taking on some of their duties to help lighten the work load.
  • Physicians assistant is able to diagnose and individual and write out a prescription for them.
  • Physician's assistants can assist with surgeries while a nurse is only allowed to care for a patient after they have undergone surgery.

Who do you see more often?
  • Nurse
  • Physicians Assistant

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